Empowerment marked the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities

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Senior Attorney

Yesterday was the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities (UN IDPD). This year’s theme, “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality” is a powerful and important reminder of the opportunity ahead to empower. Whether that’s with digital skills, technology that helps with daily needs or empowering and building the pipeline talent with disabilities entering the education and the workplace.

The word ‘empower’ means a lot to every Microsoft employee, it’s a key word in our mission ‘to empower every person on the planet to achieve more’, including the billion+ with disabilities. So, this year has special meaning to us and want to share some new features, and programs that we hope empower a more inclusive, diverse, and productive world:

Live captions & subtitles in PowerPoint

Building on the success of the PowerPoint Presentation Translator add-in, we’re announcing plans to release native live captions and subtitles for PowerPoint in early 2019, making presentations more inclusive and engaging for all audiences.

  • Live captions & subtitles provides real-time transcriptions of a presenter’s spoken words that appear onscreen either in the same language or in a different language.
  • At launch, we will support people presenting in one of 10+ spoken languages and support showing captions/subtitles on the screen in one of 60+ text languages.

Live captions & subtitles in Skype

Microsoft is also launching call captioning with live captions and subtitles for Skype to provide a more engaging experience in those calls to friends and family:

  • Live captions and subtitles in Skype are easy to turn on and use, and we’ve optimized them to be fast, continuous, and contextually update as people speak.
  • Currently subtitles auto-scroll in your call, but in the near future we’re rolling out additional viewing options that let you scroll through the conversation in their own side window, so you don’t miss a moment.
  • Skype will be rolling out translation support for over 20 languages and dialects in the coming weeks. 

Intelligent accessibility in Stream

As part of our commitment to empower people and organizations with AI solutions, we are expanding the availability of intelligent features in Microsoft Stream. These features are rolling out to all Office 365 Enterprise, Firstline and Education plans:

  • Speaker timelines that use facial detection to indicate who is talking, so you can easily jump to each speaker in a video.
  • Speech-to-text and captions that capture Streams in a readable form and make the content more accessible for everyone.
  • Transcript search and timecodes that let you quickly find moments that matter in a video.

Supporting you with technology

We also have been working on some programs that we hope help get you access to training to get up to speed, and support when you need assistance in the way that works best for you.

  • Webinar Series: Excited to announce that we are starting a new monthly Disability Answer Desk webinar series on Microsoft product accessibility features starting in January.  Check out our Webinar Sway to learn more and to sign up!
  • Accessibility at a Glance training: Quick snackable videos (2-3 minutes) show the latest and greatest in accessibility, a mix of technical and non-technical subjects.
  • Disability Answer Desk: We are here to support you in the way that works best for you and our Disability Answer Desk is currently available in 16 markets and 4 languages – French, English, Spanish and American Sign Language. We also offer live video support for people who are blind or have low vision through the free Be My Eyes App which recently went 24/7.

Building a Pipeline of Inclusion

Building a culture and a pipeline of inclusion has been an area of focus for us for several years, but like the saying goes – there is far more ahead of us than behind us. There are two programs that are open for applications today:

  • Expansion of Ninja Camp! Last summer, we hosted out first ever Ninja Camp for kids with disabilities. High school students joined us on the Redmond campus for an introduction to technology, life at Microsoft, and the future of accessibility. On December 3, we will begin accepting applications for the 2019 Ninja Camp, expanding the program to 50 students here in the Seattle area.
  • DisAbility Scholarship Applications! The time between high school graduation and college graduation is the biggest drop-off point for kids with disabilities. We created the disAbility Scholarship in 2013 to help enable high school students with disabilities to go to college and target a career in the technology industry.


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