Doubling down on accessibility: Microsoft’s next steps to expand accessibility in technology, the workforce and workplace

More than 1 billion people worldwide are living with a disability, and in some cases, most of us are likely to experience some form of temporary, permanent, or permanent disability. The visible effects are enormous. Employment and education rates are low and poverty rates are high for people with disabilities. And unfortunately, the inclusion of the community in this sensitive community has lasted for 30 years. However, if there is one thing we have learned from the 25 years of operation available at Microsoft, it is this: People with disabilities represent one of the largest pools of untapped talent, but we all need to work hard to empower disabled people to achieve More.

Fortunately, there is reason for hope in closing what the World Bank rightly calls disability disparities. Digital technology can play an important role in closing barriers to communication, communication and information. That is why today we are announcing the next phase of our journey of accessibility, a new five-year technology commitment to building and opening doors for opportunities for people with disabilities. This new initiative will bring together all aspects of Microsoft’s business by focusing on three key areas: Promoting the development of affordable technology across our industry and economy; use these technologies to create opportunities for more people with disabilities to enter the workforce; and building a work environment that is more inclusive for people with disabilities.

All this work is related. We cannot create the next generation of accessible technology without attracting more people with disabilities to play a role ****** in helping to develop it. And we need to create an inclusive work environment that develops this talent. This solid foundation will allow us to apply the “architectural” philosophy not only to Microsoft products, but also to our tools and services that support software developers and suppliers everywhere.

This desire is built on our extensive and long-term work to empower people with disabilities. From Sticky Keys, an easy way to create Windows shortcuts made in the early 1990s, to Seeing AI and Xbox Adaptive Controller, digital access is now part of Microsoft Microbiology. Over the past five years, under the leadership of Chief Accessibility Officer Jenny Lay-Flurrie, we have accelerated our culture of accessibility – developing new technology solutions, changing recruitment strategies through our Autism Hiring Program, growing a working community and collaborating with others to create new opportunities for more talented people with disabilities.

Technology

We believe that affordable technology is a basic foundation that can open up opportunities for all sections of society. Our mission begins with ensuring that Microsoft’s own products are made available to us, so that as we improve our features and functionality, we can help everyone on every side of the disability to be more productive. We will be expanding our reach with new tools and data tools to support software development across our industry and other organizations that build software services for their customers or employees. Finally, we will support this with a comprehensive technology campaign with new support for basic research and new data science skills to advance innovation continuously.

Accessibility by design

Today, we announce a wide variety of new “architectural” innovations and improvements to Microsoft 365, enabling more than 200 million people to create, edit and share documents. Using artificial intelligence (AI) and other advanced technologies, we aim to make more content accessible and easier and automatically available as a spell checker today. For example:

The new background access tester will provide an incentive to fix content access issues across all Office and Outlook applications and will improve users’ access to accessibility issues.
AI in Microsoft Word will detect and translate visual styles that are important to blind and partially sighted readers.
The new Excel navigation window designed for screen readers will help people easily find and navigate objects in a spreadsheet.
Expand Immersive Reader, used by 35 million people every month, to help with the understanding of PowerPoint slides and notes.
For groups, the high contrast mode can be used to access shared content using PowerPoint Live which will reduce eye strain and accept light sensitivity with Dark Mode in Word.
New LinkedIn features include automatic captioning for LinkedIn live streaming, business content captions and black mode later this year.

We will also empower software developers by embedding access tools, commands and automation driven by AI so that accessibility is included at the beginning of the development cycle. One way we do this is by accessing information, our developer tool for testing accessibility and UI optimization, to help improve access to websites and applications. Today, it hosts 40 percent accessibility bugs, and with automated testing and extended use of AI, in the future it will catch more. We will soon be adding information to some of our products to help build more accessible technologies.

GitHub, our software integration platform which is the largest home developer in the world, develops new themes designed to make its features easily accessible to people with visual impairments. The first is a dark black theme that makes little difference to the user interface for light-sensitive users. In the coming months, GitHub will be releasing more themes, including the very high-end themes for low-end users and themes of users experiencing color blindness. Additional features will be added in the coming months.

Research and data

Microsoft Research is one of the few industry-leading research groups aimed at advancing research into focusing on huma.

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