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Florian Beijers with his guide dog

How people with disabilities are using and improving accessible technology to achieve more

Accessible technology helps people with disabilities live better and achieve more, from finding jobs to learning new skills to navigating transportation. But it’s a two-way street: The technology wouldn’t exist without input from people with disabilities, making them powerful contributors to cutting-edge innovations that make the world more inclusive. These stories showcase recent research and development on accessible technologies, devices and games — and how people with disabilities are using and enriching them.

People with disabilities shape technology you probably use every day

The voices and experiences of thousands of people with disabilities are vital for building accessible technology. But it goes beyond that. Their work is part of a system that includes a federal Trusted Tester program and feedback to Microsoft’s Disability Answer Desk to build tools that work for millions of people with and without disabilities.

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A man in a wheelchair smiles in front of his computer

Using AI, people who are blind can find familiar faces in a room

People who are blind or have low vision are working with researchers on technologies — artificial intelligence, cameras, sensors and modified HoloLenses — that help them recognize who’s around them. It’s part of Project Tokyo, a major research effort to create intelligent personal agents that extend people’s existing capabilities.

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Two researchers work on a software test with a laptop between them

Ideas from the heart could make employment easier

A company developing a Braille tutoring app with speech recognition received an AI for Accessibility grant from Microsoft. Another recipient, whose founders watched loved ones cope with vision loss, is creating a navigation app for pedestrians who are blind or have low vision. A third project is working on intelligent systems to help people with autism do well in job interviews.

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A vision rehabilitation therapist works with an 11-year-old boy on Braille devices

Gears 5 sets a higher bar for accessibility and inclusive gaming 

Gamers with disabilities helped make Gears 5, a popular, third-person shooter game, the most approachable, accessible release in the Gears of War series. It features more helpful subtitles, narrated menus, controller and keyboard remapping and options to reduce vertigo — all aimed at creating a game more people can play.

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Two people, including one in a wheelchair, smile while holding game controllers and playing a video game

Bonjour! ¡Bienvenidos! Seeing AI expands to 5 new languages

Launched in English a few years ago, Seeing AI, a mobile app that reads text and describes objects for people who are blind or have low vision, recently added support for five more languages. That means Akiko Ishii, who is blind and owns a company with her husband, can use Seeing AI to read Japanese and get more done. She’s one of millions of people who use the app.

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A mother smiles and hugs her young daughter while holding a phone and book

How the Xbox Adaptive Controller helps the VA support veterans

Video games have long helped soldiers and veterans reduce stress and facilitate camaraderie. The therapeutic benefits are why Microsoft provided Xbox Adaptive Controllers to Department of Veterans Affairs rehab centers across the country. Developed with input from gamers with limited mobility, the controller lets players customize setups and add accommodating buttons and joysticks.

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A Veterans Affairs recreation therapist watches a U.S. Army veteran play a video game

Moovit helps people with disabilities ride transit with confidence

Developer of a global transit-planning and navigation app, Moovit is a leader in inclusive technology that provides wheelchair-accessible routes, screen-reader optimizations and buttons designed for people with hand motor disabilities. Its work and partnership with Microsoft simplify mobility and help developers build accessible transit tools.

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A man who is blind holds a cane and a phone while standing next to a light rail train

Top image: Web developer Florian Beijers with his guide dog Quai in the city of Arnhem in the Netherlands.