Microsoft develops new partnerships to bridge disability divide

Microsoft develops new partnerships to bridge disability divide

Initiative with UK government and SeeAbility aims to support people with disabilities

Elly Yates-Roberts |

Microsoft is working with the UK government and charity SeeAbility to address the disability divide, and specifically inequalities in access to technology that result from people’s disability status. 

With the UK Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Microsoft aims to give jobseekers with disabilities access to support and guidance when looking for employment. It will train 26,000 DWP work coaches in accessibility fundamentals – which will begin in May – and how to use Microsoft tools such as immersive reader, magnifier and automated captions. Microsoft says that this will “enable coaches to create accessible experiences for jobseekers and show them how they can use those free tools at home”.  

“It is critical that people with disabilities get the right advice and support to secure or retain employment,” said Hector Minto, senior tech evangelist at Microsoft UK. “The steps we are taking with the DWP are an example of the right intervention being deployed at the right time and at the required scale. 

“We are committed to partnering with governments to share our learnings, resources and build platforms to drive digital inclusion and accessibility. The work coach training programme has the potential to fundamentally transform the relationship between the job candidate with a disability and the job coach, and to ensure trusted advice extends to all UK citizens.”

Microsoft is also partnering with UK charity SeeAbility to promote digital inclusion by developing connections and skills in communities across the UK. The two organisations will invest in training programmes for carers so they can help people with disabilities strengthen social connections following lockdown.

“Technology has enabled people to stay connected when they can’t physically be together over the past year,” said Lisa Hopkins, chief executive of SeeAbility. “Now that lockdown measures are easing, it’s important that we support people with disabilities as they become more social. Our partnership with Microsoft will enable support workers to provide this teaching and ensure that no one is left behind as the UK reopens.”

The new partnerships and programmes support Microsoft’s new five-year commitment to expand accessibility in technology, the workforce and workplace.

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