By Dave Dame, Director of Devices Accessibility
In recent years, tied to Microsoft’s mission of empowering every person and organization on the planet to achieve more, teams from across Microsoft have launched several products and features to make technology more inclusive and accessible. Today, as part of the 12th annual Microsoft Ability Summit, we celebrate a new and expanded Inclusive Tech Lab, powerful new software features, and are unveiling Microsoft adaptive accessories designed to give people with disabilities greater access to technology.
Together, these announcements demonstrate our growing commitment to inclusive design – an continuation of the initiative demonstrated in 2018 with the introduction of the Xbox Adaptive Controller. The adaptive controller was designed to meet the needs of gamers with limited mobility. Its ability to work with a vast range of external switches, mounts, and joysticks allowed gamers to create the controller setup that met their specific needs. We learned a great deal through the process of building the adaptive controller, and our ambition was to extend these lessons further, applying them to all aspects of an individual’s life.
This past fall, we launched the Surface Adaptive Kit – a collection of labels, indicators, and openers that empower people who are blind, have low vision, or limited mobility to customize Surface devices for an individual’s own use. In these and other cases, close collaboration with members of the disability community and employees with disabilities has been critical. As we continue to expand our work in this area, we’re pleased to open a new and improved Inclusive Tech Lab on Microsoft’s campus.
Microsoft Inclusive Tech Lab
The successor to the original lab opened by the Xbox team in 2017. The new Inclusive Tech Lab carries forward the original purpose of the facility – to learn and develop specifically for people with various types of disabilities. Through accessible technology, we can have a positive impact on the way people learn, work, live, and play. This new, larger space represents what we’ve learned over the past five years and enables our product makers to expand this work in new ways and through new products. Additionally, this facility is better equipped for visitors who will participate and partner with us – physically and virtually – in the product-making process.
The space is purpose-built to continue this work. It is highly modular and will adapt to specific needs over time and across different projects, allowing discussion and design sessions on products and services intended for home, the workplace, schools, and remote connections. It is a place designed to demonstrate what is possible when you intentionally and proactively include people with disabilities in the product-making process and strive to build products that are genuinely inclusive by design.
The Inclusive Tech Lab is intended to be an embassy for people with disabilities, not a space about them. It will include a showcase of Microsoft’s accessible hardware, software, and services, as well as experiences created by our partners. Primarily, however, it is an inclusive design incubator where Microsoft and disability communities can ideate and evaluate product design and direction. It is a space where our designers can challenge assumptions while learning to recognize the exclusions and constraints faced by people with disabilities. We harness that understanding to create new ideas, designing for “one” and extending to many.
Meet Microsoft adaptive accessories
The new Microsoft adaptive accessories provide a highly adaptable, easy-to-use system. Each piece is designed in partnership with the disability community to empower people who may have difficulty using a traditional mouse and keyboard to create their ideal setup, increase productivity, and use their favorite apps more effectively. A traditional mouse and keyboard may pose obstacles for someone with limit mobility. These adaptive accessories can perform a variety of functions, thereby alleviating a pain point for those who find it challenging to get the most out of their PC. The Microsoft adaptive accessories have three main components that empower you to configure, 3D print, and customize your own mouse, keyboard inputs, and shortcuts in ways that work best for your specific needs.
The first component is the Microsoft Adaptive Mouse that you can customize with the Microsoft Adaptive Mouse Tail and Thumb Support, or 3D printed tails, to make a mouse that truly works for you. The Microsoft Adaptive mouse core, tail extension, and thumb support come together to create a traditional mouse that’s light and portable. Additionally, the thumb support accessory easily switches sides for left or right-handedness.
Next, a set of Microsoft adaptive accessories that empower you to replace or augment traditional keyboards with a central hub and new wireless buttons. The Microsoft Adaptive Hub can wirelessly pair with up to four Microsoft Adaptive Buttons, allowing multiple connections with less cord clutter. The hub also works with standard 3.5mm assistive tech switches and features three distinct profiles for use with multiple devices.
When paired with the Microsoft Adaptive Hub, the Microsoft Adaptive Button can be easily customized to your own preferred inputs and with different button toppers by choosing between a d-pad, joystick, or dual button, and you can also 3D print your own button topper to fit your specific needs. The wireless and versatile design allows you to create the setup that works best for you, whether you are using a versatile 2 in 1 like Surface Pro, or any Windows PC.
The Journey Ahead
We are excited to launch Microsoft adaptive accessories in the fall, and we can’t wait to welcome the disability community and all into the Inclusive Tech Lab as we learn and build technology that will empower more people to work, play and create.
Please use the following links to learn more about adaptive technology from Microsoft, or register and join the Microsoft Ability Summit:
Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.