Redmond, Around the World, and Back: Our Summer Trip Report

By Jessica Rafuse, NGO Program Manager, Accessibility, Corporate & External Legal Affairs 

Over the last month, members of the Microsoft Accessibility Team traveled to places like Washington D.C., London, Nevada and Florida to spend time with the folks that help make our products more accessible: people with disabilities.

We learned so much from you along the way. And we had some fun, too!

While at the 56th Annual American Council of the Blind Conference & Convention, we shared our progress with Windows Narrator and had the opportunity to celebrate amazing young people who are blind. We met ACB members from coast to coast at the expo booth and heard a lot of enthusiasm about Microsoft product feature, such as automatically generated image descriptions, which uses artificial intelligence to generate descriptions for images that lack alternative text. This will be available in the next update of Windows 10.

If you’re interested in providing help or suggestions for this, we welcome your feedback via the Windows Insider Program as these features are previewed in the coming months.

Jessica in her wheelchair in front of an expo booth with a poster of a man with sunglasses smiling and a table with the Microsoft logo.
Jessica Rafuse attends 2017 ACB and NFB conventions. Pictured here in front of an expo booth.

At the National Federation of the Blind National Convention 2017, we were honored to present at the Computer Science Divisional meeting. We also held a special session on Office 365 Accessibility, where Microsoft product team members from Windows 10, Excel and Word presented real-time demos of the latest accessibility features in each of these tools.

Through it all, the most valuable part of our travels is always hearing from our customers. During usability studies, sessions, and side meetings, you have generously contributed your feedback, questions and suggestions that help us improve. We are taking your valuable feedback back to Redmond to explore how we can continue to serve you.

You also told us you want to learn more. As promised, here are a few answers to your commonly asked questions:

Where is the best place to learn about recent updates to Microsoft Accessibility?
Microsoft Accessibility is your one-stop shop for all things accessibility-related at Microsoft. You can learn more about our products by selecting a particular disability segment, research a specific product, review conformance statements or policy considerations, and take a deeper dive into our inclusive design philosophy as well as our inclusive hiring strategies.

How can we continue to share feedback about Microsoft products, services, and websites?
Word is getting out that Microsoft is hungry for the feedback of our customers with disabilities. We need you! We encourage you to provide your accessibility suggestions and feedback using the Microsoft Accessibility Feedback tool where sharing your contact information is optional. You can also join our community forum, Accessibility UserVoice, to share your ideas and vote on the ideas of others.

Does Microsoft work with my third-party assistive technology (AT) provider?
Microsoft is committed to working providers of third-party assistive technology products, like screen readers, magnifiers, and specialty hardware, which are essential to many of our customers with disabilities. You can learn more about some of the AT providers for use by Microsoft customers and our commitment to supporting compatibility with Microsoft technology on our Assistive Technology Partners page.

What are the benefits of moving to Windows 10?
Windows 10 is an integral part of our company-wide commitment to accessibility. And it keeps getting better! The Windows 10 Creators Update includes new innovations, features and security capabilities.

Here are a just few benefits to weigh as you consider making the move to Windows 10:
1. Install Windows without sighted assistance.
2. Use a Braille display to interact with Windows.
3. Listen in with mono audio for people who are hard of hear or have deafness in one ear.
4. Game On! Xbox provides in-game chat transcription to game developers, which is great for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
5. Game Together! Copilot is great for gamers with mobility disabilities to share control across two controllers.
6. Read more and love it! Use Read Aloud and text spacing, which makes it easier for everyone to read and enjoy text, including people with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, emerging readers and English Language Learners.
7. Save time and keystrokes with Windows Hello!
8. Take a shortcut by using touchscreen gestures or keyboard shortcuts to increase your productivity.
9. Get a closer look with Magnifier for all or just part of your screen.
10. Ask Cortana to do it!

Is Microsoft interested in hiring people with disabilities?
Yes! Being inclusive of people with disabilities is part of who we are. The diversity of our workforce and inclusion of talented people from different backgrounds is the fuel that keeps the engines of innovation and growth running. This is essential to our long-term success. In order to build the best products for everyone, we need to have a diverse and inclusive workforce across all abilities. For a list of hot jobs, upcoming hiring events, and success stories, visit Microsoft Inclusive Hiring.

Where are we going next?
Returning to Redmond, the Microsoft Accessibility Team is feeling invigorated and energized! We are continue working on ways to infuse accessibility into everything we do. Personally, I was thrilled to take my learning back to my accessibility-centric hacks at our company-wide hackathon last week, called Microsoft One Week. where we came together to work on passion projects. Next, we are heading back to Orlando for the 2017 USBLN 20th Annual National Conference & Biz2Biz Expo. Hope to see you there!

In the meantime, you can always find us at Microsoft Accessibility, here on our blog, or follow us on Twitter. Please keep your valuable feedback coming in via our Accessibility UserVoice forum or the Disability Answer Desk.

Have a great summer!