Accessibility makes it easier for everyone to see, hear, and use a computer, and to personalize their computers to meet their own needs and preferences. For many people with impairments, accessibility is what makes computer use possible.
At Microsoft, our mission and values are to help people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential. We consider our mission statement a promise to our customers. We deliver on that promise by striving to create technology that is accessible to everyone—of all ages and abilities. Microsoft leads the industry in accessibility innovation and in building products that are safer and easier to use.
About Accessible Technology
Accessible technology is particularly helpful for individuals who experience visual difficulties, pain in the hands or arms, hearing loss, speech or cognitive challenges. In relation to computers, accessible technology is defined as:
- Accessibility options that let you personalize the computer display, mouse, keyboard, sound, and speech options in Windows and other Microsoft products.
- Assistive technology products, specialty software and hardware products (such as screen readers and specialty keyboards), that provide essential computer access to individuals with significant vision, hearing, dexterity, language, or learning needs, and,
- Interoperability among assistive technology products, the operating system, and software programs, which is critical for assistive technology products to function properly.
Accessibility is a business practice that is part of Microsoft Trustworthy Computing efforts which focus on integrity and responsibility in our business practices. Microsoft takes a strategic approach to accessibility by focusing on integrating accessibility into planning, design, research, development, testing, and documentation.
Microsoft takes a strategic approach to accessibility by:
- Continuing our longstanding commitment and leadership in developing innovative accessibility solutions.
- Making the computer easier to see, hear, and use by building accessibility into Microsoft products and services.
- Promoting innovation of accessibility in the development community and working with industry organizations to encourage innovation; and,
- Building strong, collaborative relationships with a wide range of technology organizations to raise awareness of the importance of accessibility in meeting the technology needs of people with disabilities.
At Microsoft, our commitment to developing innovative accessibility solutions began more than two decades ago and continues with each new product we develop.
Our accessibility efforts are concentrated in four key areas:
Microsoft builds accessibility into our products that enable everyone to personalize their PCs to make them safer and easier to see, hear, and use. Accessibility is a fundamental consideration during product design, development, testing, and release. Many Microsoft products feature accessibility and personalization options. Specifically:
- Windows 8. One of the most exciting changes in Windows 8 is the introduction of touch-only devices. With touch devices, you can directly interact with everything on your screen, including managing accessibility options in the Ease of Access Center. Magnifier makes it easy to magnify the screen with touch and it magnifies your apps. Narrator quickly reads out what is selected and is now available in more languages and voices. On-Screen Keyboard includes text prediction which speeds up typing and can be resized to make it easier to see. Speech Recognition allows hands-free use of the device.
- Windows 7. Explore and manage accessibility options in the Ease of Access Center. Magnifier includes a lens mode and full-screen mode. On-Screen Keyboard supports multi-language environments, can be resized to make it easier to see, and includes text prediction which speeds up typing. Speech Recognition allows hands-free use of the PC.
- Internet Explorer 10. Get the flexibility to use the browser in the ways that best suit your needs and preferences.
- Office 2010. Office 2010 lets you check if files are accessible with Accessibility Checker. You can create accessible web portals with SharePoint Designer 2010; and hear text read aloud with Mini Translator. The STAMP add-on for PowerPoint helps you add closed captions to video and audio files in PowerPoint presentations. The Save as DAISY add-in for Word converts files to digital book formats.
- Office 365. Office 365 lets you access email, calendars, and contacts across PCs, the Web, and mobile phones. Office Web Apps include features that make the software accessible to users who have limited dexterity, low vision, and other disabilities.
- Kinect for Xbox 360. Interactive entertainment should be enjoyed by as many people as possible. Accessibility features of Kinect for Xbox 360 make navigation and gameplay easier and more comfortable. With speech recognition and enhanced skeletal tracking, the Kinect experience can now be enjoyed by more users. A number of game titles for Kinect for Xbox 360 can be played by users with physical or sensory impairments.
- Windows is compatible with a wide range of assistive technology products such as screen readers, magnifiers, and, specialty hardware that meets the accessibility needs of computer users with disabilities, and provides choices in all price ranges.
At Microsoft, our commitment to developing innovative accessibility solutions started more than two decades ago. Our commitment to accessibility is reflected in our evolution to global leadership in the field. Key elements are:
Accessibility as a business practice. Microsoft Trustworthy Computing efforts focus on integrity and responsibility in our business practices. Microsoft takes a strategic approach to accessibility by focusing on integrating accessibility into planning, design, research, development, testing, and documentation.
Sharing information. Microsoft Accessibility Website and Accessibility Update newsletter provide information about the accessibility of our products, including demos, tutorials, and guides. Accessibility and personalization information is available in 58 regions and 41 languages.
Guidance for businesses and schools to provide accessible technology. Microsoft offers a series of guides to help businesses, schools, organizations and governments integrate technology for individuals with disabilities. Guides include:
- Accessibility: A Guide for Educators
Empowering students with disabilities and special needs
- Accessibility: A Guide for Businesses and Organizations
Empowering employees, customers, and partners with accessible technology
- Accessibility: A Guide for Government Organizations
Empowering governments and citizens with accessible technology
Guidance for individuals with disabilities. Microsoft offers the best accessible technology solutions available for all impairment types and severities. We provide guides to help individuals find technology solutions to address an individual’s including the Guide to Transitioning to Windows 7 for People with Disabilities accessibility needs. Computing guides are provided for individuals with:
- Vision Impairments
- Dexterity and Mobility Impairments
- Hearing Impairments
- Learning Impairments
- Language and Communication Impairments
- Aging-related Impairments
Empowering educators and students with accessible technology and training. Microsoft provides educators with accessibility guides, curriculum resources, teacher training workshops, and inspiring videos to help students with disabilities learn with computer technology. Microsoft and Dell are collaborating to make it easier for schools to obtain accessible technology and training.
Open and transparent communication. Microsoft communicates proactively about the accessibility of our products and conducts ongoing discussions to resolve accessibility issues. See Section 508 Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPATs) for Microsoft products and services.
Microsoft promotes innovation of accessibility in the development community and works with industry organizations to encourage innovation by:
Encouraging accessible development. The Microsoft Accessibility Developer Center provides guidance, tools, and technologies for developing accessible applications and web content. Microsoft UI Automation is the accessibility framework for Windows. In the Microsoft Accessibility Developer Center, web developers will find the Microsoft Web Accessibility Handbook and can create accessible websites with Expression, including the Expression Encoder used to add captions to media files. SharePoint 2010 enables users to create webpages that are compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. Blog writers can publish accessible blog posts with Windows Live Writer. Developers are encouraged to develop accessible apps and declare an app as accessible in the Windows Store.
Reducing accessibility development complexity. Microsoft works with the Accessibility Interoperability Alliance (AIA) to encourage innovation across platforms and devices in an effort to reduce development complexity and costs. The result is a broad selection of products for people with disabilities at all price points.
Engaging in research and development. Microsoft engages in accessibility-related research and development projects including large-scale nationwide studies, targeted usability studies, and one-on-one interviews. Many current Microsoft research and development projects are related to making PCs easier to use. We integrate accessibility into planning, design, research, development, testing and documentation. Microsoft also participated in the CODE Accessibility Task Force to promote accessible design.
Evolving the accessibility platform for developers. We updated our accessibility foundation with support for industry standards. By supporting standards from the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA), HTML5, and XAML, it is easier for developers to code accessibility into their applications and for the ATs using UI Automation to consume the information that makes accessibility scenarios work on Windows 8.
Cloud computing and accessibility. For people with disabilities, the key to accessing cloud services is accessible devices and applications that provide full access to the data and information available in the cloud. Microsoft is investing in built-in accessibility offerings in Microsoft-powered devices and applications. Learn more about accessibility in Office 365.
Microsoft collaborates with a wide range of organizations to raise awareness of the importance of accessibility in meeting the technology needs of people with disabilities.
Collaborative projects with:
Work with government policymakers. Accessibility is a concern for policymakers and individuals the world over. Microsoft supports the work of governments to: create policies and programs that advance broad digital inclusion; develop and harmonize market led global standards; ensure technology neutral policies and standards; and, support a robust ecosystem of interoperable technology. Microsoft creates guides for policymakers on matters that impact computer users. Find guides regarding Accessibility and Technology and Older Adults.
Collaboration with organizations. Microsoft builds strong relationships with a wide range of organizations such as United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Global Coalition on Aging, and Partnership in Opportunities for Employment through Technology in the Americas that advocate on behalf of people with disabilities. Together we raise awareness about the importance of accessibility and meeting the technology needs of people with disabilities and those who are aging; and, implement information and communication technology skills training programs.
Public-private partnerships. Seniors are achieving and maintaining a more active lifestyle, improving their general health, and more safely managing their health data thanks to a public-private partnership that includes Microsoft, the City of Los Angeles, the Partners in Care Foundation, and St. Barnabas Senior Services. Read Technology ‘Saved My Life’: Making Life Better for Boomers, Seniors.
"Our vision is to create innovative technology that is accessible to everyone and that adapts to each person's needs. Accessible technology eliminates barriers for people with disabilities and it enables individuals to take full advantage of their capabilities."