Archive of Past Feature Articles
2013 Feature Articles
A Way to Talk With Your Hands—Literally
Ukrainian student team wins in the Imagine Cup by inventing gloves that turn sign language into speech.
Microsoft Will Help Launch a New Association for Accessibility Professionals
Rob Sinclair, Microsoft’s Chief Accessibility Officer, discusses the process of creating an association and transforming accessibility into a globally recognized and respected profession.
Microsoft Paint Helps a 97-Year-Old Artist Find Inspiration and a New Way to Create
Hal Lasko thought his painting days were over until he discovered Microsoft Paint.
3-D Printing Emerges as a Powerful Technology in the World of Disability
Today, thanks to the maturation of 3-D printing and its drop in price, people around the world are able to use the technology for a wide range of innovative and inspiring applications.
A Long-time Advocate Discusses Challenges Progress, and Potential in Accessibility for the Blind
This blog chronicles some of the experiences of Gary Wunder, computer programmer and advocate for the blind, over his 30 years working with computers.
Breaking Barriers: Celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities
Rob Sinclair, Microsoft’s Chief Accessibility Officer, reflects on the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities that focuses on the progress, challenges, and goals of persons with disabilities.
Announcing Improved Access to Office with Window-Eyes
In January, Microsoft and GW MIcro announced a new offer for Office customers which provides the opportunity to download the screen reader Window-Eyes for free.
Windows Store Developers: Accessibility Gotchas #1
Learn about some common accessibility errors found in apps published to the Windows Store that cause tools like Narrator to return nothing more than gibberish as spoken text.
Interview: Developing Accessible Applications for Windows Phone
David Dzumba, Accessibility Program Manager at Microsoft, says that in the earliest stages of development it is important to design an application for everyone, including those of us with limitations in vision, hearing, speech, dexterity, or cognition. By creating an accessible app, we ensure no one is excluded and reach a larger customer base.
Microsoft and the European Disability Forum Host Discussion on E-Government
Microsoft co-hosted an important policy discussion with the European Disability Forum (EDF) at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium. James Thurston, Director of International Accessibility Policy at Microsoft, outlines keep points of the discussion.
Microsoft Helps a New Resource Center Connect Veterans with Accessible Technology
With the help of a Microsoft grant, RallyPoint/6 builds a state-of-the art resource center to help veterans transition to civilian life.
Researchers Turn Kinect into an Accessibility Prototype that Translates Sign Language
Microsoft researchers have created a new prototype that uses Kinect to translate sign language into spoken and written words and spoken words into sign.
Integrating Accessibility for a Student Can Open Doors in the Classroom
Ellis Straley, Senior Supportability Program Manager, Microsoft, shares her experiences in adapting the environment in a mainstream school so her son with disabilities can live his life to the fullest.
Rethinking the Role of Keyboards—Part Two
In a previous blog post, Alex Li, Senior Accessibility Policy and Standards Strategist, Microsoft, challenged the assertion that a keyboard must control all of a computer’s software. In this blog he discusses, “so, if a keyboard is not required, what alternatives could meet the needs of users with disabilities?”
Aging Gracefully with a Little Help from Technology, Senior Centers and Exergamers NYC
In a new public-private partnership, Microsoft teamed up with New York City’s Department for the Aging (DFTA) and Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications (DoITT) to develop Exergamers NYC. The program uses Kinect for Xbox in unexpected ways to promote more active and social lifestyles for New York City seniors.
It’s Time to Update the U.S. Public Accessibility Procurement Standard
Public procurement policies have been powerful tools in efforts to make information technology more accessible says Alex Li, Senior Accessibility Policy and Standards Strategist at Microsoft. Now, he suggests it’s time to update U.S. Procurement Standards.
Microsoft Wins a National TDI Award for Its Commitment to Making Technology Accessible
Microsoft has earned the Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Inc.’s Andrew Saks Engineering Award, recognizing Microsoft efforts in making technology accessible to people with disabilities. Ellen Kampel, Public Relations Manager for Accessibility at Microsoft, accepted the award on behalf of Microsoft, and discusses its significance in this blog.
Why I Learned Sign Language
Ann Marie Rohaly, Director of Accessibility Policy and Standards at Microsoft, discusses her experiences learning a new language—American Sign Language—ASL, in a 12-session class she attended at Microsoft, "Signing for the Workplace."
Rethinking the Role of Keyboards in Accessible Technology—Part One
This blog by Alex Li, Senior Accessibility Policy and Standards Strategist, Microsoft, discusses developments in the field of accessibility over the past ten years since he learned that “the first golden rule was that a keyboard must control all software and content features.” Li proposes that it’s now time to re-examine the underlying assumptions of this once undisputable idea.
Pushing for Inclusive Global Development at the United Nations
“People with disabilities belong at the heart of international development.” That was the message hundreds of government officials and representatives from around the world delivered when they gathered for the United Nations General Assembly’s High-Level Meeting on Disability and Development (HLMDD) in September, 2013.
Why Accessible Technology Matters—To All of Us
In a recent article, Microsoft's senior director of worldwide health, Bill Crounse, MD, provides thoughts, comments, news, and reflections about healthcare IT and how information technology can improve healthcare delivery and services around the world. As a long time champion of accessibility in healthcare, Dr. Bill Crounse reflects on the important role that accessibility continues to play in existing and emerging technologies in healthcare.
Celebrate the International Day of Older Persons
On the occasion of the International Day of Older Persons, a date the United Nations designated nearly a quarter century ago to focus on the lives of seniors, James Thurston, Director of International Accessibility Policy at Microsoft, reflects on what that means to all of us.
Be Open to New Ways of Finding Joy
This blog by Laura Ruby, Director of Accessibility Policy and Standards at Microsoft tells the inspiring story of Tommy Hollenstein who learned to paint with his wheelchair and his dog, and reminds us to be open to new paths of finding joy.
Signs and Buttons Alone Don’t Make a Building Accessible
This blog by Rick Baker, Senior Accessibility Strategist at Microsoft, with more than 25 years of experience making technology easier for people, cautions that implementing accessibility is more than meeting a single requirement that barely benefits users.
Using Windows 8 with Eye Tracking Technology
Microsoft partner, Tobii, released the latest in its line of accessibility solutions—the Tobii EyeMobile. The EyeMobile connects to Windows 8 tablets to enable full functionality of the tablet using eye gaze. The technology was optimized to work with the Microsoft Surface, and was built to mirror the functions of Windows 8 that were designed for touch—such as swiping, tapping, and scrolling. With EyeMobile, users can enjoy full Microsoft Surface functionality at home, at work, and in the classroom.
Accessibility Policy Has Moved Onto the Global Stage
James Thurston, Director of International Accessibility Policy at Microsoft, reflects on accessibility progress around the world after attending the sixth gathering of the 125 countries that signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, where leaders of disability organizations get together to share their experiences in implementing the convention.
Demonstrating Microsoft Surface to People with Visual Impairments
Larry Weiss, Accessible Technology Strategist at Microsoft, talks about demonstrating the accessibility improvements in the Surface RT and Windows Narrator at the International Technology and Persons with Disabilities conference in San Diego (CSUN), in March.
My Favorite Windows 8 Feature: Magnifier
Bonnie Kearney, Director of Accessibility & Aging Marketing at Microsoft, talks about her favorite Windows 8 feature—Magnifier, the tool that enlarges your screen, or portions of it, making words and images easier to see.
Back to School: Personalizing Technology for Individual Needs and Preferences
For students with disabilities, computers are often the most essential tool they can employ for full participation in their classrooms. Specialized assistive technology, teamed with built-in accessibility features in Windows, can give all students the means to personalize their computers to make them easier to see, hear, and use comfortably.
Microsoft Enables Vendors to Hire Workers with Disabilities
Microsoft is supporting an employment program which encourages its vendors to hire people with developmental disabilities.
A Gamer Shows How Accessible Technology Can Build Community
Today, we know video games have many benefits, ranging from supporting education to relieving extreme pain. It hasn’t always been easy for players with disabilities to enjoy this same connection, but accessible technologies can make it easier.
The Americans with Disabilities Act turned 23 on July 26, and Microsoft Director of Accessibility Policy and Standards, Laura Ruby, recommends more steps industry can take to ensure a more inclusive future.
2013 Imagine Cup Team Omni-Hearing Solution Takes Second Place in World Citizenship Competition
The Omni-Hearing Solution is three-fold: it’s a smart phone app to replace a traditional hearing aid; a cloud service to identify your potential hearing problem; and a sound processing technology to enhance the quality of all forms of vocal communication.
2012 Feature Articles
Adapting Kinect for Physical Therapy
A Kinect-based system could help combat veterans perform physical therapy at home.
Adapting EDF and Microsoft Team Up to Enhance Accessibility
Microsoft and European Disability Forum reaffirmed the common objective that the web and digital environment must be made accessible to all.
Most organizations view accessibility as an important strategic consideration while citing a lack of resources as a main factor in it not playing an even bigger role.
Making Technology Safer & Easier for Aging Baby Boomers
Bonnie Kearney highlights Microsoft's commitment to addressing accessibility issues that accompany the "Silver Tsunami" (an increase in the average age of the population worldwide).
Online Ease and Safety for Aging Adults
Learn how Microsoft's awareness of an aging population – known as the "Silver Tsunami" – helps drive more secure, accessible technology.
Week of September 17: Accessibility in Education
Throughout 2012, Anthony Salcito has posted stories of global heroes in education on his Daily Edventures blog. The week focused on people who are making education more accessible for students with learning challenges. To get inspired about ways you can personalize technology to prepare students for learning, read the week's posts:
September 21: Students create inclusive games and planetarium tour
September 20: Shannon Putman creates a Kinect for Xbox game
September 19: Mexico Imagine Cup team creates an ADD treatment
September 18: Philippines Imagine Cup team creates KidCAMP
September 17: Robin Lowell teaches math with Microsoft Lync
Global Accessibility: NCPEDP Recognizes Microsoft India
The National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) honored Microsoft India for partnering on initiatives that help extend the use of technology to persons with disabilities.
Microsoft Announces Imagine Cup 2012 Winners
Team quadSquad from the Ukraine took top honors in the Software Design Competition with its device, Enable Talk, which uses a pair of gloves equipped with 15 flex sensors and a microcontroller that continuously recognize sign language patterns, which are then transmitted via Bluetooth to a Windows Phone device that uses the Microsoft Speech API and Bing API to translate the signs into audio. This year, twenty-three percent of Imagine Cup projects were created to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities such as visual and hearing impairments and diseases that limit a human's physical mobility. Find more accessibility projects in the theme "promotion of accessibility and universal design for all".
Technology ‘Saved My Life’: Making Life Better for Boomers, Seniors
From improving fitness and aging in place to ending isolation and engaging more easily with family and friends, technology solutions help aging computer users and seniors successfully address many of the issues associated with aging.
Microsoft, Dell Empower Students with Accessible Technology and Training
Through Dell's Assistive Technology Service, schools receive training including accessibility resources that illustrate how to use accessibility features in Windows and Office and how to create accessible teaching materials and talking textbooks.
Delivering Success Through Technology for Students with Disabilities
With creative use of technology, educators are finding new ways to break down barriers and positively impact learning for all their students equally—including students with learning style differences and disabilities.
Using Kinect in Special Ed Classrooms: Advice from Loudoun County, Virginia teachers
We continue to hear inspiring stories every day about how teachers are using Kinect for Xbox 360 to bring learning to life in the classroom. Read about how special education teachers at Steuart Weller Elementary School in Loudoun County, Virginia are using the Kinect with their special needs students.
Microsoft Public-Private Partnership Helps Seniors Get Healthy and Have Fun
Los Angeles 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.
See also news release.
Exergamers Wellness Club Uses Kinect and HealthVault to Enhance Well-being of Seniors
Los Angeles seniors in Exergamers Wellness Club report health benefits and increased happiness as a result of an innovative public-private partnership using Kinect interactive gaming and health-monitoring tools from Microsoft. See also news release.
"We want to learn"—Celebrating World Down Syndrome Day—Colombia
March 21 marks World Down Syndrome Day. Children and adults with Down syndrome may have some developmental delays, but they also have many talents and must be given the chance to develop them. Read this blog by Luz Garcia de Galindo, CEO of the Down Syndrome Foundation, Bogota, Columbia.
For Students with Disabilities, Personalized Technology is Great Equalizer—Qatar
David Banes, CEO of Mada, Qatar’s Assistive Technology and Accessibility Center has been advocating for the use of technology for people with disabilities and special needs since 1994—seeking out ways to apply technology to creating accessibility for an underserved population.
Life-changing software for hearing impaired students—Ecuador
Imagine Cup winner Paco Pérez, along with fellow students and teammates created SkillBox, an affordable software solution to help hearing-impaired children by translating audio received from the teacher into sign language. The team (Falcon Dev) hopes to take their first step in making SkillBox available to children by selling the solution to public schools in Ecuador.
Recommendations for Providing Accessible Technology for Students to Enhance Personalized Learning
A report released by UNESCO entitled "Accessible ICTs and Personalized Learning for Students with Disabilities" outlines practical solutions for ensuring students with learning style differences, special needs, and disabilities can use personalized technology to enhance learning.
The Practical (and Fun) Guide to Assistive Technology in Public Schools
This book shares best practices for developing an assistive technology team within a school and using readily available assistive technology in Microsoft Windows and Office to address diverse learning needs of students with special needs and disabilities.
Different Students, Same Dreams
School Principal, Escola Secundária de Lagoa, São Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal has been a Portuguese teacher for 15 years, a drama teacher for seven years and the Lagoa Secondary School Principal for three years. Amaral is interested in improving students' learning process and skills and in introducing the right tools—in and out of the classroom—to improve students' academic success.
2011 Feature Articles
Kinect Effect Reaches Into Hospitals, Senior Centers
In the year since Microsoft launched Kinect for Xbox 360, the controller-free device has been adopted and adapted for a growing number of non-gaming uses, many of them in the healthcare field.
School for the Blind Bridges Distances With Microsoft Lync
Microsoft Lync is helping students at the Washington State School for the Blind learn algebra and software programming remotely. See also Microsoft Lync 2010 Accessibility
Empowering people with disabilities—a look at Latin America
On the 19th anniversary of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Hernan Rincon, President, Microsoft Latin America, reflects on Microsoft's accessibility mission and the progress his region is making in helping people with disabilities realize their full potential.
Accessibility at the Partners in Learning Global Forum
Microsoft hosted more than 700 innovative educators from around the world discussing the future of technology in education November 7 in Washington, D.C.
Microsoft honored at FCC for accessibility training resources
Microsoft received a Chairman Award for Advancement in Accessibility in recognition of the company’s work in creating a set of accessibility tools and training resources for developing accessible software, equipment and websites.
Back to School: Personalizing the PC so students can see, hear, and learn more comfortably
Going back to school means preparing for a new school year full of possibilities. While not on every traditional back-to-school checklist, making sure student technology is prepped and personalized for students is worth remembering.
Blind Ambition: How one student changed classroom learning for low vision students
This inspiring video shows how Imagine Cup winner, Note-Taker, enables low vision students to take notes in class with the assistance of a custom-designed portable camera, a touch-screen Tablet PC, and Microsoft OneNote.
Touching children's lives with Microsoft Surface technology,
"Surface evangelist" helps develop applications to support diagnostics and treatment of autism worldwide. More about Microsoft Surface technology which uses a touch interface and requires neither a monitor nor a mouse.
Microsoft Support for Accessibility
Microsoft Live@edu blog: At Microsoft we’re committed to accessibility and have been investing for more than 20 years, making a tremendous impact on the lives of people with a wide array of difficulties and impairments. We believe that all students—regardless of physical ability—deserve access to technology that enables them to realize their potential.
Microsoft Announces New Accessibility Offerings
Microsoft announced three new advances in accessibility in San Diego at the 26th International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference
2010 Feature Articles
Enabling Students of All Abilities to Realize Their Potential
has been a Microsoft goal for more than 20 years. Anthony Salcito, VP of Education at Microsoft, talks about our focus on making computers easier to use and technology has become an essential part of learning for students of all abilities.
Windows 7 and Office 2010 Make Accessibility More Affordable
Jamie Mayo, a senior rehabilitation engineer in the University of Michigan Rehabilitation Engineering Program, sees the value of Windows and Office accessibility every day in her work with people who experience many different types of disabilities and impairments. Read also Mayo's recommendations for affordable assistive technology solutions.
Back to School: Making Sure Students with Disabilities Can See, Hear, and Use their PCs
Supporting educational success includes making sure students' PCs are comfortable to see, hear, and use.
How do you learn to use Microsoft Windows if you can’t see?
New book, “Windows 7 and Vista Explained: A guide for blind and partially sighted users,” helps computer users with visual impairments learn to use Windows 7 and Windows Vista from a non-visual perspective.
Empowering Americans with Disabilities Through Technology
This Microsoft TechNet Blog addresses the White House announcement of a renewed commitment to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires access to the federal government's electronic and information technology for people with disabilities, as part of the celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
DAISY Consortium, Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities, and Microsoft Partner on eBook Accessibility
A Japanese-language version of the free Microsoft Word add-in that enables the creation of Word documents in DAISY format is now offered. The add-in is used to create ebooks and learning materials in the widely used DAISY format.
Microsoft Showcases Assistive Technology for Seniors
New York and other cities are working with Microsoft to bring computers, webcams, and other high-tech gear to the homebound elderly.
2009 Feature Articles
Baby Boomers Want Technology That Fits Their Lifestyle and Values
Futurist Michael Rogers explains how new research by Microsoft and AARP may change industry perceptions of how aging computer users help determine the survival and evolution of technology products and services.
Simple Loop Helps Special Needs Kids Control Their Mice
Microsoft employee Mike LaManna was surprised to find few adaptive solutions for special needs children who had trouble using computer mice. Using creativity, trial and error, and some helpful coworkers, LaManna set out to change that.
2008 Feature Articles
Inclusive Innovation Showroom Opens to Demonstrate Accessibility
A new Inclusive Innovation Showroom, designed to
demonstrate how accessibility features in Microsoft products and assistive
technology solutions developed by Microsoft partners can make it easier for
anyone to see, hear, and use a computer at work or at home, has opened on the Microsoft Redmond campus.
2007 Feature Articles
Preserving Dreams: Inventive Rehabilitation Counselor Enables Patients to Gain Back Their Independence
For more than a decade, Curt Johnson has served as a rehabilitation counselor with the UW Medical Center. Johnson, who likes problem-solving and mechanical tinkering, brings a unique set of skills to a challenging job.
2006 Feature Articles
Connecting People with the Right Technology Has a Positive Impact On Their Lives, and Mine
Joanne Castellano is the director of TECHConnection, a program of Family Resource Associates, a nonprofit organization in Shrewsbury, New Jersey, that assists people with disabilities and their families.
Vista from an Accessible View
Logan Olson, 21, says the speech-recognition software she tried out at Microsoft would help in her work publishing a lifestyle magazine for young women with disabilities.
By Benjamin J. Romano, Seattle Times technology reporter.
Injured Iraq Vet, Using Technology that Helped Him Recover, Aims to Help Others
Technology is playing an important role in helping mitigate the effects of injuries sustained by U.S. Marine, Jonathan Kuniholm, in Iraq on New Year's Day 2003.
See also press release.