Tech organizations have the power to give a leg up to persons with disabilities. Here is how one firm does it.

Did you know that the Asia Pacific region (APAC) is home to the largest number of people with disabilities in the world?

As the pandemic rages on, the 650 million people in the region bear the heavy brunt of practical impacts in terms of health, education and employment rates.  

While everyone has a part to play in driving inclusion, tech organizations play a crucial role in accelerating inclusive practices to empower not just their employees, but also customers and partners to help people with disabilities achieve more.

In a digitalized world, tech tools are important facilitators of social inclusion. Organizations that foster this social inclusion can also see improvements in their own business results, innovation, and decision-making, according to one study.

In commemoration of the tenth Global Accessibility Awareness Day, let us showcase how one tech giant has partnered with regional partners to empower persons with disabilities to achieve more.

  • Leveraging tech to gain marketable skills
    People with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) experience difficulties with social interactions and non-verbal communication, which can affect their confidence and impede their employment opportunities. In Hong Kong, promising young men like Murphy Ng have benefited from help from the Support Center for Autism at SAHK, a non-profit organization that offers series of skilling programs for people with autism.

    The organization has partnered with Microsoft’s #UpskillHK | GIVE initiative to provide courses in digital skills that are sought after by potential employers. Having acquired the digital skills, Murphy has secured employment and gained confidence. 
  • Gaming their way to new physiotherapeutic and social opportunities
    In Japan, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) patients at the Hokkaido Medical Center have made console gaming part of their rehabilitative treatment and also a catalyst for communication. Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller has a large control panel and multiple ports for the connection of additional buttons and other accessories, to facilitate use by patients with SMA.

    Such a fun and empowering technology, designed to include participation by patients such as Kentaro Yoshinari, andopens up whole new worlds of physiotherapeutic opportunities and interactions with the wider world online.
  • Feeling accepted and empowered in the workplace with tech
    In Australia, Microsoft employee Kenny Singh helps protect the data and privacy of millions of citizens despite grappling with a rare genetic eye problem called retinitis pigmentosa.

    As a champion of workplace inclusion, Microsoft ensures that Kenny can overcome his disability with assistive devices and tools to perform well in his job.

    Under the Microsoft Special Accommodation Fund program, devices such as screen readers, magnifiers, Bluetooth headsets, webcams, and optical character recognition (OCR) gadgets can be procured to aid workers with disabilities to feel accepted and empowered.

Microsoft has embarked on a five-year company-wide commitment to help bridge the ‘Disability Divide’ in the areas of technology, talent development and workplace, via the following initiatives:

  1. Broadening inclusive hiring practices to include not only the existing Autism Hiring program but also ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia, as well as learning disabilities.
  2. Continuing to create accessible and inclusive tools and spaces
  3. Offering employee support groups, such as the Microsoft Disability Employee Resource Group, that now includes more than 22 disability communities, comprising multiple regional and divisional chapters

Find out more about Global Accessibility Awareness Day from Dr Jonathan Hassell, one of the founders of this meaningful global event.