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Empowering employees with disabilities

At Microsoft, we often say, “come as you are, do what you love. Our business excels when our employees bring their full self to work. Simply put, inclusion drives innovation.  

With the unemployment rate for people with disabilities double that of people without disabilities and 1+ billion people around the worldwe need to work together to create more inclusive workplaces.  

The Accenture/Disability:IN study last year showed that companies that focus on inclusion outperform their peers and in Microsoft we have proven time over time that if we empower employees with disabilities to bring all their expertise to the workplace, it leads to amazing innovation. This is a call to action: every workplace needs to be an inclusive workplace. 

That’s why this year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) theme “The Right Talent, Right Now” is so pertinent to Microsoft and we will be celebrating it throughout the month of October. 

Creating Inclusive Workplaces

To truly change perceptions of what disability means, itimportant to drive awareness and change societal stereotypes of disability. People with disabilities are in every part and every level of an organization and I’m proud that today we are sharing the stories of several Microsoft employees, discussing their personal journey and underscoring the importance of self-disclosing their disabilities to their teams and peers. It is so great that leaders from across the company are helping to spark such an important conversation, including Angela Mills, partner group program manager, PlayFab, Microsoft; Craig Cincotta, senior director of communications, Azure and Business Applications, Microsoft; and Dona Sarkar, head of the Windows Insiders Program, Microsoft. 

Self-disclosing your disability is a very personal choice. But as employers, it is also our responsibility to create inclusive workplaces where everyone can bring their whole self to work and feel comfortable sharing what resources they need in order to be successful.  

Developing Technology that Empowers

In addition to the need for more inclusive workplaces, we also have an equal need to work to make technology more accessible for people with disabilities and explore the role technology can play to empower people in the workplace and beyond. 

This month, Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella will be meeting with employees to explore what is possible with technology and share a few demos that help to see the potential for how we can use technology to empower people with disabilities in new ways. The first demo shows Code Jumpera new way to assist children who are blind or with low vision to learn computer coding and programming skillsDeveloped by Microsoft and distributed by the American Printing House for the Blind, this educational tool aims to bridge the skills gap and open up the world of coding to every student. 

At Microsoft, woffer an array of accessible products and services. From built-in features within Microsoft365 to innovative apps and services. Check out our Accessibility Features Sway to learn more and do follow us on twitter, we’ll be sharing hints and tips all month! 

We Are All Advocates

There is a simple concept in the world of accessibility and disability inclusion if you don’t know, ask‘. If you don’t know what resources are available in your workplace, raise the question. If you are unsure of what responsibilities your organization has to help empower employees with disabilities, seek out the information. The more we ask questions and have a willingness to learn and grow, the better off we will all be. 

Microsoft President Brad Smith recently spoke at the National Federation of the Blind 2019 National Convention about why we can’t just focus on technology, we need to put people first. He underscored that we need to look beyond the products and features that everyone uses today and fundamentally ask ourselves, “How can we imagine new technology that can fundamentally improve people’s lives in ways they haven’t yet experienced?” Over the summer, Microsoft Chief Marketing Officer Chris Capossela attended the Disability:IN Annual Conference and Expo and represented Microsoft, where he accepted the Marketplace Innovator of the Year Award on behalf of the company. Reflecting on his experience at the conference, he noted that, “including people with disabilities in our organizations pays off in multiple ways. At Microsoft, inclusion is at the core of our mission.” 

This gets to the heart of what we do every day at Microsoft and how we can empower people with disabilities around the world. We are all on a journey together. Building partnerships, listening, asking, and learning can net results for your organization. We don’t have all the answers, but if we work together, we can create positive change for everyone.  

I also think it is incredibly important to try new things and ask ourselves, “what more can we do to empower our employees and the broader disability community?” For example, we have been working with BraunAbility, a leading manufacturer of wheelchair accessible vehicles and other mobility transportation solutions, to test a new 3-D graphic for ADA Parking spaces at the Living Well Health Center on our Redmond Campus. Our goal is to help drivers and passengers get in and out of their vehicle safely and to help deter misuse of the accessible spaces and access aisles. This is part of BraunAbility’s Drive for Inclusion initiative and we are getting great feedback from employees. Creating an inclusive culture is so much more than just adhering to laws (which is important!), but really focusing on everything we can do to build an environment where everyone can thrive. 

Tune in throughout the month as we share more stories, demos, and ways to get involved in the movement.