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Microsoft will intensify its efforts to improve the accessibility of i
Microsoft will intensify its efforts to improve the accessibility of its technology and the employment of people with disabilities
  • With a new five-year commitment, which includes technology, research and agreements with third parties, the company wants to help reduce the gap in the social inclusion of people with disabilities, whose employability rates are the lowest.
  • Microsoft has implemented a philosophy of “accessibility by design,” not only for its products, but also for the tools and services that support software developers and providers.
  • In Spain, Microsoft has been collaborating for more than twenty years with entities such as ONCE and its Foundation, with which it has collaborated, among other initiatives, in the “Accessible Camino de Santiago” project.

Microsoft has announced the next phase of its commitment to accessibility to help close the gap around social inclusion for people with disabilities.

This is a new five-year commitment , with which Microsoft wants to create and open doors to greater opportunities for people with disabilities, through technology. Microsoft's commitments will focus on three major priorities:

  • Stimulate the development and improvement of accessible technology.
  • Use this technology to create more job opportunities for people with disabilities: talent training -employment and education-.
  • Promote a business culture that makes it possible to build more inclusive workplaces.

Microsoft has implemented an “accessibility by design” philosophy, not only for its products, but also for the tools and services that support software developers and vendors who create services for their customers or employees. All of this is part of an initiative, which also includes support for research and new data science capabilities that help promote continuous innovation in this area .

Accessible technology by design

Microsoft has announced new accessibility-by-design features in Microsoft 365, allowing you to create, edit, and share documents. Using artificial intelligence (AI) and other advanced technologies, the company's goal is to make more content accessible and as simple and automatic as spell check is today. Among these new features are:

  • A new background accessibility checker, which will provide a prompt to fix accessibility issues in content in the core Office and Outlook apps.
  • The AI ​​in Microsoft Word will detect and convert text for blind and low vision readers to heading styles.
  • A new Excel navigation pane, designed for screen reading applications, will help visually impaired people easily discover and navigate a spreadsheet.
  • Improvement of the Immersive Reader - which is already used by 35 million people around the world, being able to better understand PowerPoint notes and slides.
  • Now in Teams, high contrast mode can be used to access shared content using PowerPointLive . This will reduce eye strain and accommodate light sensitivity with the dark mode in Word .
  • New LinkedIn features, including automatic captions for LinkedIn live streams, captions for business content, and dark mode, coming later this year.

Likewise, Microsoft has announced that it will empower software developers, incorporating accessibility tools, notifications and automation thanks to AI, so that accessibility is included at the beginning of the product development cycle. Using Accessibility Insights, Microsoft's development tool for user interface accessibility testing and remediation, you can help improve the accessibility of websites and applications. Today, it detects up to 40 percent of accessibility errors, and through more automated testing and greater use of AI, it will detect even more in the future.

Another announcement focuses on GitHub, the collaboration platform for software developers. It now features new themes designed to make its features more accessible to the visually impaired. The first is a Dark faded theme that brings less contrast to the user interface for users with light sensitivity. In the coming months, GitHub will add high contrast features for users with low vision and themes for users with color blindness.

Research and data

Microsoft Research has a research team focused on the study of human-computer interaction. Thanks to the work of this team, the company has launched useful new features for people with disabilities, such as Eye Control in Windows 10, which allows communication through eye control for people with ALS. Since 2014, more than 6,500 Microsoft employees have participated in the initiative Ability Hack , creating 1,000 projects like MirrorHR, which identifies potential seizure triggers in children with epilepsy and advances clinical trial research.

In Spain, Microsoft has established lines of collaboration with ONCE and its Foundation in the areas of technological accessibility, promoting the employment of people with disabilities, and incorporating accessible technologies in the classroom. An example of the collaboration established between Microsoft and ONCE and its Foundation is the “Accessible Camino de Santiago” project, an initiative that was launched in 2019 to make the French Way, one of the most visited by pilgrims, more passable. Microsoft's collaboration takes shape through the development of Soundscape , an application that Microsoft has developed with feedback from ONCE and that allows you to orient yourself in all types of environments.

Soundscape's 3D auditory guidance system allows people with visual disabilities to travel some sections of the French Camino de Santiago independently, knowing at all times the precise orientation within the trails and the different points of interest along the Camino.

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