Chicago to pilot new project to make cities more accessible

 |   Adam J. Hecktman

Microsoft believes accessibility and inclusion are essential to delivering on our mission to empower everyone, everywhere. Technology can play a powerful role to empower people with disabilities. Across Microsoft, we are working to make technology more accessible – whether that is built-in accessibility features in Windows and Office 365, new tools and resources like Soundscape, Seeing AI and Learning Tools, or collaborating with organizations on initiatives to help make the world more inclusive.

In Chicago, we have an opportunity to further the Smart Cities for All global initiative, a partnership between G3ict and World Enabled to help cities empower people with disabilities. The City of Chicago will become the first city in the world to pilot the Smart City Digital Inclusion Maturity Model, an assessment tool created by G3ict and World Enabled with support from Microsoft.

Designed to help city leaders and urban planners better understand the needs of and empower people with disabilities, the new Maturity Model helps cities measure digital inclusion and track progress. Focused on a broad range of functions important to all cities, such as communications, procurement, training, and technology standards, it defines key performance indicators and metrics to support advancing accessibility. Five levels of digital inclusion maturity guide cities in assessing and tracking progress across multiple Smart Cities dimensions, e.g. technology, data, culture, and strategy.

We are honored to collaborate with the City of Chicago and two nonprofits with a history of leadership in inclusive and accessible design that are actively working to help cities advance how they utilize technology to build more inclusive communities. The leadership of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities Karen Tamley, and CIO and Commissioner of the Department of Innovation and Technology Danielle DuMerer, will create an important legacy of inclusion in Chicago. The new pilot demonstrates their continued focus of building inclusive practices into their planning and development process, a model that cities around the world will benefit from as we look at ways we can empower the more than 1 billion people with disabilities in the world.

Throughout October, we are celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Initiatives like Smart Cities for All and the pilot project in the City of Chicago are great examples of how we can work together to help change the unemployment rate for people with disabilities, which is nearly double that of those without disabilities. Check out the blog, Empowering all people in the workplace, to learn more about our work to make technology more accessible.

We all have the responsibility to come together – across industries, sectors and geographies – to create a more inclusive world. Together we can support cities in using innovative technology to advance opportunities for everyone.

Adam J. Hecktman
Adam J. Hecktman

You may recognize Adam. He’s a regular on TV, you can hear him on the radio, he’s penned numerous articles and is the co-founder of the Chicago City Data Users Group. But some of Adam’s most important work is done behind the scenes in his role as Microsoft’s Director of Technology and Civic Engagement for Chicago. Tech giants, universities and government leaders turn to Adam for guidance on all matters technology, and he happily obliges, helping Chicago overcome challenges and capitalizing on new, exciting opportunities.