UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities: Sharing our learnings to create a more accessible world

December 3rd marks the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities (UN IDPD). This year’s theme is “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World”, and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate and important focus given everything that is happening in the world right now.

The global pandemic has disproportionately impacted people with disabilities and driven a widening gap in societal inclusion. Labor force participation and unemployment for people with disabilities in the US is at 20.6% and 11.1% respectively, and technology plays a huge part in building back better. We’re already seeing this play out in real-time with significant increases in the usage of accessibility features like Live captioning in Teams which saw a 30X increase, and a 200% increase in the number of customers reaching out to the Disability Answer Desk.

Our employees also rely on accessibility features as they work remotely and Satya recently shared the stories of 5 employees using technology across the spectrum of disability. We’re also seeing great examples of accessible solutions with partners like Akari Solutions who strive to inspire change with creative technologies centered around inclusion, such as ADI, a free Accessibility and Wellbeing bot designed to support and empower those who need it most and educate users on accessibility tools.

Accessibility has never been more important. There are so many stories around the world where accessibility is making a difference in peoples’ lives, and in honor of IDPD, I’d like to share a few nuggets of joy and resources to use on your own journey.

A More Accessible and Inclusive World

Organizations across the globe are increasingly recognizing people with disabilities as talent and setting them up for success through accessible technology.

United Kingdom: GlaxoSmithKline, a multi-national pharmaceutical company, relies on Teams accessibility features such as background blur and live captions to help employees with remote collaboration.

“I have definitely seen an increase in engagement by using Microsoft Teams for everyone, but especially for people with disabilities.” Tracy Lee Mitchelson, Project Lead, Disability Confidence at GSK.

France: Sodexo, a provider of quality of life services, is helping employees work independently through building digital accessibility skills using Microsoft 365 as its communications and collaboration platform.

“Some of the work that’s happened with our front-line workers helping them to understand the Microsoft tools that were available have really helped with their digital accessibility.” Megan Horsburgh Head of D&I, Sodexo UK & Ireland.

India: By embracing Microsoft Teams, v-shesh, a workforce services provider, is delivering engaging lessons in the cloud and equips people with disabilities to be part of the digital-first economy.

“With Teams, we are not only creating an inclusive environment but also equipping our learners to be ready for the future of work.” P Rajasekharan, Co-founder at v-shesh.

United States: Fannie Mae, a provider in mortgage services, is seeing Microsoft 365 play a crucial part in digital transformation and building an inclusive workplace that helps all employees reach their potential.

“We use the accessibility tools in Microsoft 365 as part of our drive to approach everything from an inclusive mindset. When you do that, not only do you problem-solve for the needs of your customers, you drive innovation as a natural by-product.”  Cassie Hong, Product Designer at Fannie Mae.

Moving toward an Inclusive Recovery

These are just a few examples of companies where accessibility is making a difference in how they operate. As I’ve said many times before, accessibility is a journey and we’re all at different points.  We’ve learned a lot as we’ve progressed and are excited to share our learnings to help create a more accessible world.

Getting Started:

We encourage you to review the resources above and learn how you can do your part to create a more accessible world. While the pandemic is an unfortunate reality, together we have the collective power to create a path toward an inclusive recovery. As always, you can learn more at Microsoft.com/Accessibility.