05/19 – International Accessibility Awareness Day, let’s talk about technology and employment for people with disabilities

Microsoft Accessibility team at New Inclusive Tech Lab laboratory At Microsoft headquarters

Editor’s note: This blog has been updated after it was posted.

On May 19, we honored the 11th annual World Accessibility Awareness Day(DMCA). The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is an awareness day focused on digital access and inclusion of people with disabilities around the world. While the pandemic has increased the population with disabilities and widened the disability gap, it has also sowed important positive seeds. As Carolyn Casey, founder and creator of The Valuable 500, said at the Microsoft Ability Summit last week: “We’ve been seeing movement since the pandemic…with disability, but there is something that needs to be fully integrated into communication with consumers and employees.” We couldn’t agree more. We’re proud that accessibility is part of our culture here at Microsoft.

See below for more details on our journey to reduce the disability gap, in partnership with the PWD community and access experts around the world.

technology

Technology has the power to prepare people. Our responsibility is to raise the bar for what is possible with technology for people with disabilities and to offer the capabilities of inclusive design.

This month Microsoft announced several new products and features that make this suggestion, and many of these ideas have come from you. aWindows 11It is the most affordable Windows operating system out there. You asked us to make it easier to find and use accessibility features, so we changed the name from “ease of use” to “accessibility” and added a new accessibility panel and human icon to make it easier to find and use accessible features. New features include Live Subtitles (available online and offline); New natural sounds for screen readers; Voice access and Focus Mode (the new favourite), which lets you turn off notifications.

Accessibility can make content more inclusive, regardless of whether you know if someone has a disability or not. The big news is that people are using these accessibility features more and more. Thanks to improved commands and translation, usage of Office Accessibility Checker – our accessibility analyzer – has grown 14 times in the past year, which means that content accessibility is being checked more and more. 163,000 people joined the XAIL (Xbox Accessibility Insider League), an opportunity for anyone who identifies as a person with a disability or a supporter to provide accessibility feedback directly to the Xbox game engineering and development teams. This fuels a new wave of ideas to support more than 400 million disabled players worldwide, creating features for hearing-impaired players such as the inclusion of ASL and BSL in Forza, and a new ASL channel on Twitch!

At the Microsoft Ability Summit last week, Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer, revealedNew line of adaptive accessories– A new mouse and keyboard experience on PC or phone. Available later this year, the suite also includes a hub for connecting these tools to other adaptive devices made by Microsoft or third parties.

There is more to come. Innovation for the future is our focus. OurMicrosoft Partner EcosystemBuilding and delivering affordable technology at scale to customers, partners create next-generation accessibility solutions. For example, fileCityMaaSThe Mobility Map platform was developed to provide local accessibility information around the world and allow people with disabilities to visit businesses and places of interest. (You can find more accessibility offerings featured in #BuildFor2030 byMicrosoft Partners).

talent

To drive this next wave of innovation, we need to empower the talent pipeline and address challenges affecting talent with disabilities. according toNational Council for Disability(NCD), students with disabilities who were unable to receive needed services and support during the pandemic experienced disruption and regression in their behavioral and educational goals. Historically, persons with disabilities have been underrepresented in the workforce; The pandemic has exacerbated this chronic problem.

Young people and adults with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities before the pandemic have experienced significant hardship during the crisis.

OneNew Microsoft EDU StudyIt found that 84% of teachers say it is impossible to achieve equality in education without accessible learning tools. And 87% agreed that accessible technology can help not only level the playing field for students with disabilities, but also generate insights that help teachers better understand and support all of their students. Four out of ten (41%) teachers experienced an increase in mental and emotional health issues among their students.

Helping empower students with disabilities is a priority at Microsoft. We work to support teachers with tools, starting with training with the newMicrosoft Learn Professional Development and Resource Center for EducatorsTo technologies including The Immersive Reader and Microsoft Reflect, which help teachers monitor student well-being and encourage emotional awareness, and Minecraft: The New Education Edition.

Workplace

The DMCA is the time for us to open doors and turn the talents of people with disabilities into job opportunities. We support the transition to the Integrated Competitive Employment Act, the legislation that addresses minimum wages, an important step toward equal pay for people with disabilities. This includes grants from the US Department of Labor to states and eligible entities to help transform their business models and programs to support people with disabilities.

Employment of persons with disabilities depends on partnerships. With an unemployment/underemployment rate for neuro-diversified talent estimated at 80% or more, it is critical that we work together without competing with each other. We have recently worked with 30 partners fromNeurodiversity @ working round table to launchThe functional link to neurodiversity. This job market supports both small and large employers to screen neurologically disparate candidates for employment opportunities. This is the next chapter in our journey at Microsoft, which began in 2015 with a pilot program to recruit autistic talent. We are proud to expand these efforts and partner with 30 companies to open doors for this talent pool and transform these numbers.

Microsoft is also pleased to announce the expansion of our relationship with value 500, an organization that works with 500 large companies committed to making workplaces more accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities. This will expand our partnership with influential organizations such as Disability: IN and many others.

Microsoft continues to be guided by the insights of the disabled community and is proud to work with some of the best in the industry. That includes our accessibility team, who met at the new Inclusive Tech Lab at Microsoft headquarters this week. It’s an incredible journey, and I encourage everyone to exploreDisability Answering OfficeAnd thehttps://blogs.microsoft.com/accessibility/And the Wherever you are looking for an accessible future for everyone.

I’m very proud of Microsoft’s work in this area, working in partnership with many people who focus on accelerating access and inclusion for people with disabilities around the world. Join me in celebrating your work today. Tomorrow we will complete the next chapter. Come on!

Tags: accessibility, disability, equality, neurodiversity, partnerships

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