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Making waves offshore: Introducing ButtercupReader.net - the latest in accessibility online

Last month in the New Zealand Herald, Tony Stewart, our Managing Director, talked about some of the work Intergen does offshore and how these overseas engagements act as a salve in these challenging economic times. Late last year, Shaun Donaghey, our Auckland GM, talked to Metro magazine about how, with the time difference (and the exchange rate), being from ‘little old New Zealand’ can be turned into a distinct business advantage.

It’s commonly accepted that technology has broken down the geographical barriers of old (oceans and so on) and that we live in something resembling a ‘global village.’

As you may well know, we do a lot of work offshore, including work for Microsoft Corporation. As well as being a Gold Certified Partner (and Microsoft New Zealand Partner of the Year 2008), we have a pretty unique relationship with Microsoft HQ, which means we often get involved with technologies before they even formally exist, which gives us insights into future markets – a crystal ball of sorts. And as early adopters, we’re often called upon by Microsoft Corp to roll our sleeves up and get immersed in making applications that break new ground with new technologies. Some projects are cloaked in the utmost secrecy – so much so that all but the key players are in the dark, even internally within Intergen – and some we can talk about.

One of the ones we can talk about – and now have very good cause indeed to talk about – is ButtercupReader.net. It’s a significant project in a number of respects, and this week the wee flower had its international unveiling at Microsoft’s MIX 09 conference in Las Vegas. Our Director of Strategy and Innovation, Chris Auld, and Reed Shaffner of Microsoft, Redmond, gave ButtercupReader its first outing, demonstrating it as a successful living example of Building Accessible RIAs in Microsoft Silverlight (which also happened to be the name of the session).

So, what is ButtercupReader, exactly? And, more to the point, what’s significant about it? Other Intergenites have blogged on ButtercupReader’s finer technological points far more eloquently than I ever could here and here (complete with pretty pictures).

ButtercupReader is a Silverlight application that allows visually-impaired people to read digital books and better access the information contained within Word documents, no special hardware required, and at no cost to the user. The only thing needed is Microsoft Silverlight, which is free and just takes a few  minutes to download. There are numerous readers on the market, but none so accessible or easy to obtain. All you need to do is open your browser and you’re away.

Due to our extensive Silverlight experience in developing TextGlow, which was also launched internationally at last year’s MIX, Microsoft approached us to help them develop a “talking book” player that would enable those with sight difficulties to access DAISY (digital accessible information system) book files in a way that has previously been unthinkable. Intergen then got in touch with the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind and enlisted the skills of their Adaptive Technology experts. And the rest, as they say, is history.

So, in short, Silverlight has enabled pretty significant inroads on the accessibility front.

And accessibility is a pretty important point for Intergen itself. Over the years we’ve had a lot to do with upholding web accessibility standards, especially having built numerous government websites. This latest Silverlight application is about as accessible as you get (see Andrew Tokeley’s blog for a visual run-through), and it truly harnesses rich, interactive and leading edge technologies – the best of both worlds!

Posted by: Katy Sweetman, Marketing Director, Empired Group | 20 March 2009

Tags: Silverlight, TextGlow, MIX, Accessibility, ButtercupReader

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