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Chief Accessibility Officer Jenny Lay-Flurrie on empowering employees with disabilities

We Are All Advocates

There is a simple concept in the world of accessibility and disability inclusion if you don’t know, ask‘. If you don’t know what resources are available in your workplace, raise the question. If you are unsure of what responsibilities your organization has to help empower employees with disabilities, seek out the information. The more we ask questions and have a willingness to learn and grow, the better off we will all be. 

Microsoft President Brad Smith recently spoke at the National Federation of the Blind 2019 National Convention about why we can’t just focus on technology, we need to put people first. He underscored that we need to look beyond the products and features that everyone uses today and fundamentally ask ourselves, “How can we imagine new technology that can fundamentally improve people’s lives in ways they haven’t yet experienced?” Over the summer, Microsoft Chief Marketing Officer Chris Capossela attended the Disability:IN Annual Conference and Expo and represented Microsoft, where he accepted the Marketplace Innovator of the Year Award on behalf of the company. Reflecting on his experience at the conference, he noted that, “including people with disabilities in our organizations pays off in multiple ways. At Microsoft, inclusion is at the core of our mission.” 

This gets to the heart of what we do every day at Microsoft and how we can empower people with disabilities around the world. We are all on a journey together. Building partnerships, listening, asking, and learning can net results for your organization. We don’t have all the answers, but if we work together, we can create positive change for everyone.  

I also think it is incredibly important to try new things and ask ourselves, “what more can we do to empower our employees and the broader disability community?” For example, we have been working with BraunAbility, a leading manufacturer of wheelchair accessible vehicles and other mobility transportation solutions, to test a new 3-D graphic for ADA Parking spaces at the Living Well Health Center on our Redmond Campus. Our goal is to help drivers and passengers get in and out of their vehicle safely and to help deter misuse of the accessible spaces and access aisles. This is part of BraunAbility’s Drive for Inclusion initiative and we are getting great feedback from employees. Creating an inclusive culture is so much more than just adhering to laws (which is important!), but really focusing on everything we can do to build an environment where everyone can thrive. 

Tune in throughout the month as we share more stories, demos, and ways to get involved in the movement.  

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