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A Corvallis assistive technology company is getting some public relations mileage out of a promotional road trip by software titan Microsoft.
ViewPlus Technologies, which makes embossing computer printers that produce tactile graphics and Braille text for the blind, partners with Microsoft to design systems that work with the company’s ubiquitous Windows operating system.
On Tuesday, two members of Microsoft’s accessible computing group swung by ViewPlus on their way from their Seattle office to San Diego for the International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, the industry’s biggest showcase. Known as CSUN after conference organizer California State University-Northridge, the four-day event starts next week.
Accompanied by a videographer, Dan Hubbell and Gary Moulton met with ViewPlus founder John Gardner and sales and marketing director Andreas Gast, toured the plant and got a look at what the Corvallis company’s latest tactile embosser can do.
On Wednesday morning, before they hit the road for another day of travel, they posted a 4½-minute video on their blog (aka.ms/road2csun) about their ViewPlus visit and an earlier stop at a Lake Oswego assistive technology distributor.
The idea of the trip is to highlight the wide variety of technology available to make computers user-friendly for people with disabilities, said Bonnie Kearney, Microsoft’s director of accessibility marketing and communications.
“We wanted to do something different to really touch customers,” she said. “This is more social media outreach for us.”
Hubbell and Moulton plan to check in with other manufacturers as well as people who use assistive technology in their daily lives and others who struggle with access.
Accompanying them in a second car is Mike Calvo, the blind founder of Minneapolis-based assistive computing company Serotek, and assistant Kevin Garcia. Calvo is posting a live audio feed to his blog and updating his followers about the trip on Twitter.
“We’re all kind of on the road to CSUN,” Calvo said. “We’re all trying to raise the profile of accessibility and social networking.”
As one of the first companies accepted into Microsoft’s assistive technology vendor program, Kearney said, ViewPlus Technologies seemed like a natural waypoint for the journey.
“We’ve had a long relationship with ViewPlus,” she said. “They’re sort of the industry standard for Braille printers.”
The relationship has been important to ViewPlus, Gardner said, making it possible to keep his company’s products compatible with Microsoft’s evolving operating systems.
“We get a lot of free software, and we get access to testing,” Gardner said. “All that stuff, if we had to buy it, would amount to maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.”
But Microsoft gets something out of the deal as well — it gets to put its software in the hands of more computer users, even those with significant disabilities.
“In the end, our customers receive the benefit,” Kearney said. “What we get out of it is customer satisfaction.”
Founded in 1996, Corvallis-based ViewPlus Technologies is an international leader in tactile graphics and braille technologies. Current ViewPlus products include the Tiger® Braille printers, IVEO Hands-on Learning System, Tiger Software Suite braille translation software, and the Audio Graphing Calculator.