Access for all: creating an inclusive world

How do you create a world where everyone has the right to communicate, play, and learn—regardless of their abilities, their level of education, or where they come from?

Thanks to purposeful engineering and technology, experiences that were once closed off to people with disabilities and from different backgrounds are now open to all. From building eye-controlled devices to improving literacy tools with artificial intelligence to making centuries of knowledge open-access online, these visionaries are harnessing technology to create a world that’s inclusive by design.

Most of what ALS takes away, technology can give back. I would call that a cure.

- Steve Gleason

Finding independence in the blink of an eye

The promise of technology is to make life easier. But for the nearly 1 billion people worldwide living with a disability, that hasn’t always been true.

That reality inspired former NFL player Steve Gleason to take action. Diagnosed in 2011 with ALS—a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord—Steve can’t move, speak, or breathe on his own. But today, he’s working through his charity Team Gleason to provide technology, equipment, and services that empower people with ALS to live as productively and independently as possible

In 2014, Steve challenged Microsoft to develop technology that could help him communicate more naturally, be independently mobile, and play with his son. The result was a hackathon that led to the development of an app for Windows 10 which empowers users to operate an onscreen mouse, keyboard, and text-to-speech apps with their eyes.

Today, Windows eye tracking technology is available via APIs and open-source code that encourages anyone anywhere to collaborate and build more accessible experiences.

Five years after the challenge, Team Gleason continues to use this technology and partner with Microsoft to develop life-changing assistive technologies. Microsoft and the Enable Team have provided valuable equipment to Team Gleason to support their mission and the pALS they serve. And later this year, Steve is being awarded a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor in the United States.

Learn about how collaborating with Team Gleason has shaped the way Microsoft designs for accessibility, what the Microsoft Enable Team is up to, and more on the Microsoft On the Issues blog.

Until there’s a cure for ALS, technology is the cure.

- Steve Gleason

Unlocking the power and passion of play

Play is an essential part of being human. It’s how we unwind, connect, and feel the joy of being alive. And that’s what makes it a crucial part of inclusive design. These innovative initiatives have helped unlock the power and passion of play by building products that are accessible to all people of all abilities.

At Burton Snowboards, “we’re all riders”

Burton Snowboards lives by its mission, harnessing inclusive design and creativity to explore adaptive technology in a way that helps all riders—including those with disabilities—achieve their full potential. They continue to perfect their innovative Step On® boots and bindings system, which lets riders lock into place without bending over or sitting in the snow to adjust straps.

Learn how this flexible adaptive controller is helping some of the most passionate players get back in the game.

Changing the game… for anyone who wants to play

The new Xbox Adaptive Controller will make gaming accessible to players around the world, of all ages, with a broad range of disabilities. The controller can be connected to external buttons, switches, joysticks and mounts, giving gamers with physical disabilities the ability to customize their setups.

Learn more about the most flexible adaptive controller made by a major tech company and how it’s helping some of its most passionate players get back in the game.

Opening up access to a world of art, music, and ideas

For centuries, viewing art was something reserved for the lucky few—those with the resources, experiences, and abilities to get past the gatekeepers and access the sea of knowledge behind the work. But thanks to technology, that reality is changing fast. Explore how the world of art, music, and ideas is becoming more accessible than ever.

Celebrating women in STEM
Mae Jemison became the first woman of color in space. Rita Levi-Montalcini redefined our understanding of the human body. And Tu Youyou’s breakthrough malaria treatment has saved millions worldwide. These women pushed boundaries and defied odds to become scientific pioneers. And they’re just a few of the countless women who have explored new frontiers in STEM—often as unsung heroes.
Find out more