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Microsoft to assist move to Open Document Format

Tash Shifrin

The US state of Massachusetts is to begin its move to an Open Document Format (ODF) standard by using Microsoft Office plug-ins, in a bid to ensure materials are accessible to disabled people.

ODF was approved as an international data format standard by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) in May. A month later, the Belgium government decided to adopt ODF across its operations in a further boost for the open source format.

Massachusetts had scheduled a move to using ODF for all its documents by January 2007. But disability campaigners have raised concerns that office suites supporting the open format did not meet accessibility criteria or work well with assistive technology for disabled people.

In a mid-year statement, Massachusetts chief information officer Louis Gutierrez said that technology under development would eventually meet accessibility requirements and would allow the state to implement ODF without compromising current accessibility levels.

But he added that open format office suites were “unlikely to be fully supported by assistive technology vendors” by the 1 January target date.

Instead, Massachusetts now plans to use “translator software” – also under development – that will allow Microsoft’s Office suite to translate documents from Microsoft formats to ODF. This would allow the state government to tap into assistive technologies that work with Microsoft Office.

“We anticipate one or more of these projects to allow ODF adoption to commence before 1 January 2007,” Gutierrez said.

 

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