Inclusion in action
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.
Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer, answered Steve Gleason’s challenge by pulling together an all-star team. At Microsoft’s hackathon, they designed and iterated until a prototype emerged: an eye-controlled app, offering the potential to drive a wheelchair using sight.
The next step was to involve the ALS community early on to ensure the tool was designed specifically to meet their needs. That’s where Ann Paradiso, Principal User Experience Manager for the Microsoft Research NExT Enable team came in.
Ann launched the pALS program (people with ALS), which connects people with ALS and their families with Microsoft researchers and developers. She engaged Team Gleason and local ALS chapters in early participatory design to learn where tech has failed people with ALS—and where it can uplift.
Microsoft’s immersive approach gave critical insight into ALS—allowing them to address usability flaws as they arose—and also gave their ALS collaborators direct feedback into the tools being designed for them. The resulting product was Eye Control, now available on Windows 10.
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.
- Steve GleasonUntil there’s a cure for ALS, technology is the cure.
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.
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.
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.
How museums are making their collections available to all
Through Open Access, museums are making their vast public domain art collections—including downloadable images and valuable metadata for tens of thousands of works—available online for free to anyone, anywhere in the world.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Met launched an Open Access platform in 2017, making images and data relating to public-domain art in the collection available for all online. Now, their goal is to help audiences discover artworks and find meaningful connections between them.Here's how
Cleveland Museum of Art
Cleveland Museum of Art's Open Access initiative make over 30,000 works of art from its collection accessible online for free. The public can reuse, remix, and share these public domain artworks for virtually any purpose—personal, scholarly, even commercial.Find out how