Microsoft celebrates 11th annual GAAD by underscoring its projects and techs designed for people with disabilities

May 19, 2022

Microsoft is celebrating the 11th annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) by highlighting its efforts in recent months to make technology accessible to people with disabilities.

“GAAD is a day of awareness focused on digital access and inclusion for people with disabilities around the world,” writes Microsoft Chief Accessibility Officer Jenny Lay-Flurrie in a blog post. “The pandemic has grown the disability demographic and widened the disability divide. Yet there are the seeds of positive change. As Caroline Casey, Founder & Creator of The Valuable 500 said at the Microsoft Ability Summit last week, ‘We’re seeing a move since the pandemic… recognition from businesses that accessibility is not a ‘niche’ issue for people with disabilities, it’s an issue that needs to be completely invested in for communication for consumers and employees.’ We couldn’t agree more. We’re proud that accessibility is part of our culture here at Microsoft.”

Lay-Flurrie enumerated Microsoft’s actions to make its products and services friendly for people with disabilities. First are the new features of Windows 11 specifically improved for better accessibility. Aside from changing the system’s ‘Ease of Use’ to ‘Accessibility,’ Windows 11 has received a new accessibility pane and human icon to allow users to spot and access the features easily. It includes Live Captions, Voice Access, focus mode, and new Natural voices for screen reader.

On the other hand, Lay-Flurrie also stressed the role of its educational tools and products in teaching learners with disabilities. It includes the Immersive Reader, Microsoft Reflect, the new Microsoft Learn Educator Center for Resources and Professional Development, and even the Minecraft: Education Edition.

The company also goes beyond improving its software. Last week, Microsoft announced the arrival of its Adaptive Accessories line this fall of 2022. The set has three components – the Microsoft Adaptive Mouse, Microsoft Adaptive Hub, and the Microsoft Adaptive Buttons. The devices are designed to allow users to perform instant customization based on their specific needs. The mouse and adaptive buttons have accessories and can easily combine with 3D-printed ones. The devices are not the first set of hardware devices offered by Microsoft to cater to people with disabilities. In 2018, Xbox released the Adaptive Controller for gamers with limited mobility, while last fall, Microsoft launched the Surface Adaptive Kit for easier navigation of the Surface PC.

Microsoft is also taking steps to empower workers with disabilities and help neurodivergent adults secure jobs. One of the projects it launched through partnerships with different companies from Neurodiversity @ Work Roundtable is the Neurodiversity Career Connector, a site for companies finding neurodivergent talent and workers searching for jobs that fit their needs. In relation to that, Microsoft’s relationship with The Valuable 500 will expand through a partnership with other notable organizations working to make workplaces more accessible for people with disabilities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}