I recently visited a relative at a care facility and was greeted at the visitors entrance by a sign with a wheelchair icon that read: “To Enter: Please push large handicap button to your far right on the wall, then you can PULL open the door.” I wondered if the person who installed that door ever tested it. If you pushed that lovely button and tried to pull open the door, while maneuvering in a wheelchair on a tiny porch, you would be forced into a nearby flowerbed to make room for the door to get past you.
Today one of our partners, Tobii, is releasing 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.
When I joined Microsoft seven years ago to work on global accessibility policy I thought: ‘Is there even enough activity around the world to keep me busy?’ Policymaking was largely centered in the United States, the European Union, and a small number of other countries.
In July, I attended one of my favorite events and it confirmed that accessibility policy is no longer something that happens only in Washington and Brussels. It was the sixth gathering of the 125 countries that signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, where leaders of disability work get together to share their experiences implementing the convention.
I recently demonstrated the accessibility improvements in the Surface RT and the new Windows Narrator, with a little low-tech help.
Earlier this year at the International Technology and Persons with Disabilities conference in San Diego (CSUN), I showed people the accessibility features in Microsoft’s Surface RT. I was charged with demonstrating both Surface RT and Narrator, which is included with Windows 8. Since both are nearly brand new, many people would be using these products for the first time. So, I did a little extra low-tech preparation to my Surface to provide some tactile feedback. I added thin Mylar craft tape along the edges of the touchable area to show the width of the bezel. In addition, I placed tape on either side of the Start button to make it easy to find.
By now, you have probably seen the new Windows 8 operating system, which looks different from anything you've ever seen on a PC.
Despite how much I enjoy the slick touch screen and new look of Windows 8, my favorite enhancement is the Magnifier. This tool enlarges your screen, or portions of it, making words and images easier to see. This can be particularly helpful for users with low vision. Whether I need to give my eyes a break near the end of a workday or to zoom in on fabric for a weekend project, it is there whenever I need it.
This month the nation’s children head back to school—many equipped with powerful new technology unimagined a decade or two ago. Technology plays a huge role in both teaching and learning, and is becoming more and more adaptable to personal needs and preferences. Students now routinely use technology to gather information, complete and submit school work, and enjoy interactive and stimulating lessons.
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.
If you are like me, you might find yourself frequently changing system settings in the Windows Phone "Settings" app. For example, I travel quite a bit and find myself turning on and off "Airplane Mode" with enough regularity that digging for the switch in the Settings app is not ideal. Unfortunately I can't directly pin the Airplane mode setting to my start screen but there are some apps that will allow you to pin a shortcut. One of those apps is called Toggle. What I love about Toggle is that not only can I pin shortcuts to my favorite settings but I can also activate these via voice commands.
Danielle Serkin-Poole was just a young girl when she fell in love with cooking. Officially, her parents told her the kitchen was off-limits. But at around age six, she started to follow her dad and watch him make dinner. Over the years, she learned how to cook everything from perfect French toast (the secret is using challah for the bread) to potato latkes. But soon she will transition to a new role, one that reconnects her to her early passion: food prep. In a few weeks, she will be in the kitchen helping keep the salad bar stocked with fresh veggies. "It's my dream job," she said.
I love video games. During my youth, I spent countless hours on Atari, Nintendo and PC gaming. As a senior program manager, I don’t have as much time for games these days, but I still love playing. Today, we know video games have many benefits, ranging from supporting education to relieving extreme pain. The aspect I enjoy most is the sense of community, bonding with friends while shooting virtual aliens or cutting the rug with my daughter on Kinect. It hasn’t always been easy for players with disabilities to enjoy this same connection, but accessible technologies can make it easier.