Accessibility makes it easier for everyone to see, hear, and use technology, 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 is to enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential. We consider our mission statement a commitment to our customers. We deliver on that commitment by striving to create technology that is accessible to everyone—of all ages and abilities. Microsoft is one of the industry leaders in accessibility innovation and in building products that are safer and easier to use.
About Accessible Technology
Accessible technology enables individuals to personalize their technology to make it easier to see, hear, and use. Accessibility and accessible technology are helpful for individuals who experience visual difficulties, pain in the hands or arms, hearing loss, speech or cognitive challenges; and individuals seeking to customize their computing experience to meet their situational needs and preferences. Accessibility includes:
- Accessibility options let you personalize the user experience through the display, mouse, keyboard, sound, and speech options in Windows and other Microsoft products.
- Assistive technology products are 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.
- Interoperability among assistive technology products, the operating system, and applications is critical to enabling a world of devices accessible to people of all ages and abilities.
Accessibility, as part of overall usability, is a fundamental consideration for Microsoft during product design, development, evaluation, and release. Microsoft endeavors to integrate accessibility into planning, design, research, development, testing, and documentation.
Microsoft addresses 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 collaborative relationships with a wide range of 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 is making the computer easier to see, hear, and use by building accessibility into our products and services. Specifically:
Windows 8. One of the most significant 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 can be used with touch on the desktop as well as in apps. The built-in text-to-speech program, Narrator, reads aloud 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. With Speech Recognition you can control your computer by voice, allowing hands-free use of the device. Built-in support for USB peripherals like head mice, joysticks, headsets, and input switches provides access for people with even the most severe disabilities.
Office 2013. Microsoft Office 2013 includes accessibility features that both make it easier for people with disabilities to use it, and, for content creators to make more accessible documents, presentations, and other materials. Notable features include Accessibility Checker, Read Mode for a cleaner, easier-to-read view, ALT text support for pictures, shapes, tables and graphics, and SharePoint Services accessibility support.
Internet Explorer 11. Internet Explorer 11 includes accessibility settings to help all users, including those with disabilities, move around the Internet more easily, see webpages more clearly, and access information more quickly.
Office 365. Microsoft Office 365 is an online subscription service. With Office 365, you automatically get the latest versions of Office programs such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Because Office Online runs in your browser, many familiar accessibility features of your browser are available to you.
Kinect for Xbox 360. Interactive entertainment is enjoyed by nearly all people—including people with disabilities. 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 provide choices in all price ranges.
Microsoft Customer Support provides a dedicated support desk for customers who have disabilities or who are looking for support to use assistive technology, such as screen readers, screen magnifiers, and speech recognition commands.
At Microsoft, our commitment to developing innovative accessibility solutions started more than two decades ago. Our commitment to accessibility is reflected in these key elements:
Sharing information. The Microsoft Accessibility Website and Accessibility Update newsletter provide information about the accessibility of Microsoft products, including demos, tutorials, and guides. Accessibility and personalization information is available in many regions and languages internationally.
Guidance for businesses and schools to provide accessible technology. Microsoft offers a series of guides to help governments, schools, and business and organizations 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 also offers guides for individuals on technology solutions available for all impairment types and severities, including:
- 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 more to help students with disabilities learn with computer technology.
Open and transparent communication. Microsoft communicates openly about the accessibility of our products and engages with stakeholders to resolve accessibility issues. Microsoft self-reports how products and services meet common accessibility requirements.
Creating an International Accessibility Professional Society In an effort to produce more accessible devices, applications, and content for people of all abilities, Microsoft believes that Accessibility must mature to form a more scalable, repeatable, and internationally recognized profession. As a charter member of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP), Microsoft is working with a diverse range of corporate and non-profit partners to build a well-informed, internationally coordinated community.
Informing stakeholders on current topics. From events to breakthroughs in assistive technology and product news, Microsoft endeavors to keep key stakeholders informed and prepared. The Microsoft Accessibility blog is updated weekly, and five “hot topic” flyers were published for download in FY13:
- Windows XP End of Support
- Keyboard Shortcuts in Windows 8
- Creating Accessible Documents with Microsoft Office
- Accessibility in K-12 Education
- Using Microsoft SharePoint and Visual Studio to Create Accessible Websites
Microsoft promotes innovation of accessibility in the development community and works with industry organizations to encourage innovation by:
Reducing complexity of accessible development. Visual Studio includes features and tools to make developing accessible apps easier. 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. Web developers will find the Microsoft Web Accessibility Handbook helpful in creating accessible websites. SharePoint products and technologies include features that make the software easier for more people to use, including people who have low vision, limited dexterity, or other disabilities. Developers are encouraged to develop accessible apps and declare an app as accessible in the Windows Store.
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. Microsoft also participated in the CODE Accessibility Task Force to promote accessible design, and sponsors the Imagine Cup, the world’s premier student technology competition in which all eligible students are invited to use their imagination and passion to create innovative technology solutions to human problems.
People-centric product design. Microsoft envisions a world of accessible, connected devices that can understand and interpret users’ needs, preferences, and immediate surroundings. These innovations have the potential to benefit us all—innovations such as gesture control, speech recognition, and touch are transforming the way we interact with technology.
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 include:
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; promote people-centric design by focusing on outcomes rather than features; point to existing voluntary market-driven industry standards; are technology neutral; and, let the marketplace decide how to best serve customers through a balance of built-in features, scalable services, and specialized third-party technologies. Microsoft creates guides for policymakers on matters that affect computer users.
Collaboration with organizations. Microsoft builds strong relationships with a wide range of organizations such as G3ICT, the United Nations, Global Coalition on Aging, and Trust for the Americas, and national disability groups in many countries around the world 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.
Supporting the industry. Microsoft works with the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) to encourage innovation across platforms and devices. The result is a broad selection of products for people with disabilities at all price points.
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 several public-private partnerships that include Microsoft, the City of Los Angeles, and the City of New York.
Supporting standards. Microsoft collaborates with standards organizations like the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), and the W3C Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA), HTML5, and XAML working groups. The resulting guidance makes it easier for developers to code accessibility into their applications and for accessibility scenarios to work on Windows 8.
"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."