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Cloud Computing May Increase Internet Access

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services has proposed that "inclusive Cloud and Web computing" be a priority for the federal Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects (DRRP) and Centers.

In the United States, people classified as "disabled" are accessing the World Wide Web 23 percent less than the rest of the population, according to the National Broadband Plan and a 2010 Federal Communications Commission report.

"One reason for the disparity is that the Web infrastructure is not set up to address disability access issues seamlessly across all of its functions," the Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services explained. "Additionally, software and devices (e.g., computers, smartphones and tablets) used to access the Web are often inaccessible for people with disabilities, and individuals with disabilities have limited access to technical assistance with selecting, setting up and using appropriate technologies."

In addition, the Department of Education said, "People with disabilities often are required to purchase separate accessibility software and assistive devices for each device they use to access the Web, which adds to the economic burden of Web use by people with disabilities."

One possible answer lies in Cloud computing, a technology used to store, access and process information on the Web. Cloud computing carries the potential to enhance Web participation by people with disabilities by providing an infrastructure that better supports accessibility for this population.

The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services proposed the research project under the Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects and Centers Program administered by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. The proposed project, based on Cloud and Web inclusion, is intended to contribute to improved employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities.

The Assistant Secretary has also proposed the process of Knowledge Transfer, which ensures new knowledge and products gained through research and development will ultimately be used to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities.

"Technology transfer is a subset of knowledge translation that focuses on ensuring that technology-based knowledge and products will be transferred into tangible benefits for individuals with disabilities through commercialization, engineering standards, freeware and other tangible applications," the Assistant Secretary said.

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