When Bonnie Kearney decided to take a sign language class during her lunch hour she was a little nervous. New languages didn’t always come easily to her, though she was a gifted communicator for Microsoft.
Her first baby sign language class was a little like a first date, awkward. But, Kearney was determined to embrace the course because she had year-old twins at home and was hoping to connect with them through sign. She quickly realized she wasn’t alone when she walked into a classroom full of new parents, led by a dynamic teacher who wove children’s games and songs into her classes.
In February, in a one-minute Super Bowl commercial, Microsoft and former NFL safety Steve Gleason showed the world how the Surface can empower us all.
As helpful as the technology in that commercial was, both Gleason and Microsoft knew it could be even better. This week we will team up again to make Surface more accessible and powerful as part of our company-wide hackathon, when 5,000 employees will combine their curiosity and passion to improve Microsoft products and platforms. It is part of //oneweek, which kicks off a year of innovation, cooperation, new priorities, and obsession over our customers.
Twenty-four years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) promised a new generation of workers opportunities to join the U.S. workforce. But as we celebrate the anniversary of the act Saturday, a reportoffers a sobering reminder that many members of this ADA generation still face high barriers when looking for a job.
Today, more than two-thirds of Americans with disabilities are not in the workforce and employment of workers with disabilities hasn’t improved since the act was passed in 1990, according to the congressional report released last year by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. The report proposed a bold plan to help the ADA generation make easier transitions from school to work.
For more than 20 years, Microsoft and IBM have worked side-by-side on digital inclusion efforts and the development of technology for people with disabilities. So, I am excited to congratulate my longtime colleague, Frances West, who was recently named IBM’s first Chief Accessibility Officer (CAO). I have known Frances for years as the Director of the IBM Research Human Ability and Accessibility Center where she has served to advance accessible solutions produced by IBM and worked with myself and others as an advocate for effective accessibility policies around the world.
One of the best parts of my job is that I get to collaborate with inspiring organizations around the world that are working to create a more accessible and inclusive society. Last month, I was at the second annual conference of Access Israel, a non-profit group working to improve quality of life for people with disabilities. Over two days, I learned about the incredible range of accessibility work happening across that country.