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Bill Gates Signs Deal in Spain to Make Better Software for People With Visual Impairments

Friday November 19, 8:56 pm ET

MADRID, Spain (AP) -- Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates signed an agreement Friday with a Spanish association for the blind to develop better software for people with visual impairments.

Under the deal, Microsoft Corp. will work with the National Association of Blind Spaniards to enhance technology giving blind and visually impaired people access to the Internet.

The idea is to improve software for equipment such as voice synthesizers and braille keyboards that allow computers to tell blind people what is on the screen in front of them, Gates told a news conference in Madrid.

"Because software is so magic, we want broad access," said Gates, who met earlier in the day with Spanish government officials.

The Spanish association, known as ONCE, has been working with Microsoft since 1997, when ONCE officials traveled to the company headquarters in Redmond, Washington, to help make Windows 98 accessible to blind people.

The accord also calls for ONCE to join a group of companies that manufacture computer equipment for the blind and act as consultants to Microsoft.

The Spanish association was founded in 1938 and provides job training and other education programs for the visually impaired. It finances itself almost exclusively by selling lottery tickets.

An estimated 1 million of Spain's 40 million people are blind or visually impaired.

Taken from the AP press release, as seen from Yahoo's news service