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The Trace Research & Development Center is a part of the College of Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Founded in 1971, Trace has been a pioneer in the field of technology and disability.

Trace Center Mission Statement:

To prevent the barriers and capitalize on the opportunities presented by current and emerging information and telecommunication technologies, in order to create a world that is as accessible and usable as possible for as many people as possible.


The Trace R&D Center was formed in 1971 to address the communication needs of people who are nonspeaking and have severe disabilities. The Center was an early leader and innovator in the field that came to be known as "augmentative communication" (a term first coined by the Trace Center).

As the personal computer emerged, the Trace Center became a leader in making computers accessible to people with all types of disabilities. In 1984, the Center served as a coordinator for the nationwide Industry-Government Initiative on Computer Accessibility. The computer design guidelines developed through this effort were used as the basis for many industry guidelines and accessibility standards.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the Trace Center worked directly with the computer companies to integrate disability access features into their standard, mass-market products. As a result of this work, disability access features are incorporated directly into most operating systems and environments today.

As technology became more pervasive in the workplace, education, entertainment, and daily living, Trace's research and development focused on universal design of information and communication technologies, so that they are more accessible and usable by elders and people with disabilities. Key accomplishments:

See Projects & Programs for more information and results of the Trace Center's work.


Long term funding for the Trace Center has been provided by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) (U.S. Department of Education), through the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) Program. Past and current RERC grants are:

Additional funding has been provided by the National Science Foundation, the State of Wisconsin, and technology companies.

For more information about the Trace Center, contact us.