Microsoft is partnering with the UK Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to help jobseekers with disabilities get support and guidance when looking for employment.
The technology company will train 26,000 DWP work coaches in accessibility fundamentals and how to use Microsoft tools such as immersive reader, magnifier and automated captions. This will enable coaches to create accessible experiences for jobseekers and show them how they can use those free tools at home to get support with the use of technology in the recruitment process and the increasingly digital workplace.
The Accessibility Fundamentals training will be offered to DWP work coaches from May.
Hector Minto, Senior Tech Evangelist at Microsoft UK, said: “It is critical that people with disabilities get the right advice and support to secure or retain employment. The steps we are taking with the DWP are an example of the right intervention being deployed at the right time and at the required scale. We have been using this accessibility training at Microsoft for the past three years and know the impact it has made on our own employees’ ability and confidence to support people with disabilities.
“We are committed to partnering with governments to share our learnings, resources and build platforms to drive digital inclusion and accessibility. The work coach training programme has the potential to fundamentally transform the relationship between the job candidate with a disability and the job coach, and to ensure trusted advice extends to all UK citizens.”
Microsoft is also partnering with UK charity SeeAbility to grow its Creating Connections programme, which aims to promote digital inclusion by developing connections and skills in communities across the UK. Through this partnership, Microsoft and SeeAbility will invest in training programs for carers to build their digital skills, so they can help people with disabilities rebuild and strengthen social connections following lockdown.
Many people with disabilities have been shielding throughout the Coronavirus pandemic as they have underlying health conditions. Now, they need urgent support to ease the impact of loneliness and isolation.
According to research by the Office for National Statistics in May 2020, nearly two-thirds (62.4%) of people with disabilities said COVID-19-related concerns were affecting their well-being, compared with less than half (49.6%) of adults without a disability.
Lisa Hopkins, Chief Executive of SeeAbility, said: “Technology has enabled people to stay connected when they can’t physically be together over the past year. Now that lockdown measures are easing, it’s important that we support people with disabilities as they become more social. Our partnership with Microsoft will enable support workers to provide this teaching and ensure that no one is left behind as the UK reopens.”
These training programmes form part of a new five-year commitment made by Microsoft today to help bridge the “Disability Divide” by expanding accessibility in technology, the workforce and workplace. The commitment will focus on three priorities: spurring the development of more accessible technology across our industry and the economy; using this technology to create opportunities for more people with disabilities to enter the workforce; and building a workplace that is more inclusive for people with disabilities.