Microsoft Netherlands staff go ‘blind for a day’ to help increase visual impairment awareness

More than 350,000 people in the Netherlands are visually impaired, and only 35% of adults with visual impairment have a job compared to 67% of the general working population.

Visual impairment can happen to anyone of us at any time. Microsoft Netherlands’ M&O lead Cara Antoine herself suffered from an eye infection while travelling abroad in China, which resulted in the loss of her left eye.

Now also an active ambassador for the Dutch Hoornvlies Patienten Vereniging (Cornea Patients Association), Cara focuses on raising funds and increasing awareness for research into different types of eye diseases.

Through their own fundraising efforts, a group of Microsoft Netherlands employees, supported by partners such as Oogfonds, Koninklijke Visio, Bartimeus and Ongehinderd, chose to wear special glasses which would impair their sight, before participating in a number of activities to increase awareness.

These activities included having lunch, taking an indoor building tour, and conducting a meeting listening using Microsoft’s Visual Impairment tools (such as screen readers and/or screen magnifiers), to take notes and send emails using Office 365, while browsing the web.

The activities were then followed by a debriefing session, so that participants could share their learnings and experience with each other. The day saw over €5,000 raised, and provided an impactful experience for participants.

Bob Offereins, Employee Empowerment Specialist at Microsoft Netherlands who also has a visual impairment states that: “When I suffered from the effects of a hereditary disease of the optical nerve in 2007, I never expected to become visually impaired. A lot has happened since then, and technology is starting to become more enabling step by step.”

“Our team raised over €5,000 and counting – but most importantly, the experience made an impact on all of us – for myself, as a person with a ‘visual challenge’ and for colleagues who experience what I and other colleagues in the same situation overcome in their workday.”

“The response after this session from my colleagues, their curious questions and the awareness created in the minds of friends who helped us through the experience was heart-warming and gives me the confidence that technology will empower people with ‘visual challenges’ even more. With these learnings, through trial and error, we can make Microsoft technology, and the world, a more inclusive place. And I am really proud of being a part of that.”



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