Accessibility offers an amazing opportunity

Post by Jason Brommet, Commercial Accessibility Lead and Head of Modern Work & Security Business – Microsoft Canada  

Today marks the 11th Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), an international day that started with the simple purpose of getting everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion. For us at Microsoft, it is also an opportunity to dig deeper into how to make technology more accessible to empower everyone to thrive in life, in work and in driving digital transformation of every industry around the globe. 

More than one in five Canadians live with a disability and there are more than 1 billion people with disabilities around the world. Further, every one of us will face some type of exclusion at some point in our lives, whether situational, temporary, or permanent. 

Technology can play an important role in empowering people who have disabilities. It can help people like Aydin, a student from Whitby, Ontario who is beating epilepsy with MirrorHR. Or Devante Taylor, a 27-year-old from Toronto, Ontario who uses Surface Pro and Microsoft AI-powered Eye Gaze, to gain independence in his personal and professional life.  

Bolstering our commitment in Canada 

At Microsoft, accessibility and inclusion are essential to delivering on our mission of empowering every person – of all abilities – and every organization on the planet to achieve more. However, this is not confined to the products and services we engineer, it is also a reflection of our culture and the systemic approach to inclusion in everything we do. Whether it is enhancing our inclusive hiring practices, embedding inclusion into our employee evaluation process, or supporting our teams to deliver accessible and inclusive experiences for all Canadians. 

Accessibility skilling is now included in the Cloud Skills Challenge 

We are excited to announce that the popular Cloud Skills Challenge is expanding to integrate training on the accessibility services built within our tools. Whether you have a disability, know or work with someone who does, we all can be more inclusive every day. With the Accessible Canada Act (ACA), and various other provincial legislations, we all share in the responsibility to make Canada barrier free. Individuals and teams across Canada can now compete in their skilling journey, driving awareness to the importance of accessibility tools and practices in the workplace, in addition to the technical skills required for the digital economy. 

We are also partnering with amazing Canadian organizations doing great work in this space. These organizations are change-makers who refuse to simply aspire to raise awareness about the importance of access and inclusion; they are using their expertise to have a meaningful impact every single day. 

We encourage you to sign up to participate today – whether as an individual, or as an organization.  

Empowering Educators & Students through Minecraft: Education Edition  

Last week at our annual Ability Summit Microsoft announced a strategic partnership with Peel District School Board to launch BuildAbility, a new world in Minecraft: Education Edition. The custom world provides educators, with the help of a dedicated ‘Educator Guide,’ the ability to lead lessons and provide resources for students to learn about and identify barriers in these areas. With Minecraft‘s extensive suite of creation tools, students will also be encouraged to build and re-build areas to make them more accessible.  

Empowering Developers with Disabilities 

We’re excited to announce that we have partnered with Fable to develop courses for their free skill development program, Fable Pathways. The content is created by people with disabilities, for people with disabilities to enable them to acquire the skills required to participate in the growing technology workforce. Microsoft’s course on getting started in web development for screen reader users introduces Visual Studio Code and GitHub and is taught by Kelly Ford from the Microsoft Accessibility team. Learn more on this initiative here  

Doing our part  

Annual milestones like Global Accessibility Awareness Day are great reminders of the importance of diversity and inclusion. However, creating a more inclusive world takes diligence every day among employers, employees, public sector leaders, citizens, families, and friends. To ensure we are leveraging our best every day and doing our part, we all need to lean in and learn more.  

P.S. In case you missed the Ability Summit, you can catch all the content on-demand on our Accessibility YouTube channel 


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