Microsoft: Championing accessibility inside and out

In a recently published training video, Microsoft’s head of accessibility shows us the importance of inclusive design for every user - as well as providing some handy tips on disability etiquette and accessibility checking along the way.

The importance of accessibility – for everyone

In many of my recent posts, and in almost every one of my recent presentations (to see these just find me on Youtube, I've emphasised why accessibility is no longer just for disabled people in this mobile-first world.

The Microsoft staff video tells the same story. Featuring the company's head of accessibility, Jenny Lay-Flurrie, it includes some powerful messages and examples to back them up.

The examples include someone with autism who prefers using email to communicate, as well as the power of OneNote to capture thoughts and tasks, someone with a hearing impairment who uses Skype Translate to get instant ‘live subtitles’ to an online conversation, and someone who broke his right wrist playing soccer (we call it football) who uses voice recognition and Microsoft’s virtual assistant Cortana to efficiently complete his work and overcome his temporary disability.

A great intro to accessibility and disability

Microsoft's training video is a great introductory guide to disability and accessibility – including some top tips on both. For people creating documents in Office, for example, the guide mentions the Microsoft Ofice Accessibility Checker, which will help step you through the pitfalls of unlabelled images and poor document structure to achieve truly inclusive spreadsheets, slideshows and Word docs.

The guide also mentions some common dos and don'ts when it comes to disability etiquette. One example is to say who you are when starting a conversation with someone who is blind (if I had a penny for every time that didn’t happen…) For a pretty comprehensive list check out this excellent guide to disability etiquette.

New accessibility advances in the latest Windows update

One of the most powerful aspects of  what is now called 'Windows as a service’, which is being constantly updated with new versions on an almost monthly basis, is that we don’t have to wait till the next big release to receive advances in accessibility.

The most recent release (16215 if anyone’s counting) brought us some major new accessibility features. These include improvements to Narrator (the built-in screen reader) and most particularly with respect to Braille support, the introduction of system-wide colour filters and improvements to the user interface of the powerful built-in Windows Magnifier.

For a full break-down of new features check out this great On MSFT article.

All things Microsoft and accessibility

Thanks to their accessibility, I’ve been using Microsoft products as a blind person for nearly 30 years. To explore the wide range of information, guides and resources that Microsoft has provided on the accessibility of their products and services please go to

Assistive Technology Blog