Posted on Leave a comment

London’s V&A museum adds Xbox Adaptive Controller to gallery on groundbreaking design

The Xbox Adaptive Controller has been added to a V&A gallery dedicated to groundbreaking moments in design.

The controller, which was released on September 4, lets gamers with limited mobility plug in assistive aids such as buttons, joysticks and switches to allow them to play videogames on Xbox and Windows 10 PCs.

The V&A, the world’s leading museum of art, design and performance, has acquired Microsoft’s product for its Rapid Response Collecting display. The area, on the third floor of the seven-floor museum, was opened in 2014 and explores how current global events, political changes and pop cultural phenomena impact, or are influenced by, design, art, architecture and technology.

Other products in the Rapid Response Collecting gallery include a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes, a Lufsig soft toy, a set of Bolide HR handlebars, a personal genetic testing kit and a LEGO set.

The Xbox Adaptive Controller on display at the V&A
The Xbox Adaptive Controller on display at the V&A

Corinna Gardner, Senior Curator of Design, Architecture and Digital at the V&A, said: “The Rapid Response Collecting is about bringing objects into the museum that signal moments of economic, political, social and technological change. It’s contemporary design history in action.

“The Xbox Adaptive Controller was an object that we thought very much captured a specific moment within the field of videogames but also more broadly about social and inclusive design. It’s a real opportunity to bring an object into the collection that addresses the question of inclusive design head on. It’s an important and attractive acquisition for us here at the V&A.”

The Xbox Adaptive Controller delighted charities and gamers with limited mobility when it was unveiled in May. They say it will help them continue to enjoy something they love as well as connect with other people and be more independent.

There are around a billion people across the world with a disability, including 13.9 million people in the UK. Research from Muscular Dystrophy UK found that one-in-three gamers has been forced to stop playing videogames due to their disability.



Chris Kujawski, Senior Industrial Designer at Xbox, said it was an honour to see the controller placed in the V&A.

“This is the most important project that I’ve been a part of at Microsoft because of the impact it will have on people,” he said. “It’s an honour to have a product that we designed in a museum.

“The recognition of inclusivity and gaming that this provides is good for the industry, and it’s great that Microsoft is being recognised as a leader in this space. I hope it inspires other companies and the next generation of designers to build hardware that’s inclusive.”

The Xbox Adaptive Controller, which can be connected to any Xbox One or Windows 10 PC via Bluetooth, features 19 3.5mm input jacks and two USB ports. Gamers can plug their third-party devices into these, with specific support for PDP’s One-Handed Joystick, Logitech’s Extreme 3D Pro Joystick and Quadstick’s Game Controller.

The Xbox Adaptive Controller is in the Rapid Response Collecting gallery of the V&A
The Xbox Adaptive Controller is in the Rapid Response Collecting gallery of the V&A

Two, large, easy-to-press programmable buttons and a D-pad means it can also be used as a standalone controller. The internal lithium-ion battery can be recharged, eliminating the need to change small batteries.

Up to three profiles can be saved on the controller, allowing people to quickly switch between set-ups depending on the game they are playing.

Even the packaging has been specially designed to be opened by gamers with limited mobility.

The Xbox Adaptive Controller is available to buy now, priced at £74.99. Sitting alongside 12 other objects, It will have a permanent place in the free area at the V&A, in London, which houses a collection of more than 2.3 million objects that span over 5,000 years of human creativity. The V&A also displays a copy of Minecraft, as well as a hooded sweatshirt and action figure of the Creeper from the game in its Museum of Childhood.

Tags: , , , , ,

Posted on Leave a comment

Gaming gets more inclusive with launch of the Xbox Adaptive Controller

Without a doubt, 2018 has been a hallmark year for inclusivity in gaming. From individual platforms and games introducing more features for gamers with accessibility needs to physical hardware like the Xbox Adaptive Controller, there has never before been such a high point for inclusivity in gaming. Available at Microsoft Stores and GameStop Online for $99.99, the first-of-its-kind Xbox Adaptive Controller will be available starting today, so even more gamers from around the world can engage with their friends and favorite gaming content on Xbox One and Windows 10.

The Xbox Adaptive Controller is a product that was ideated and pioneered with inclusivity at its heart. We iterated on and refined it through close partnership with gamers with limited mobility and fan feedback, as well as guidance and creativity from accessibility experts, advocates and partners such as The AbleGamers Charity, The Cerebral Palsy Foundation, Craig Hospital, Special Effect and Warfighter Engaged. Even the accessible packaging the Xbox Adaptive Controller arrives in was an entirely new approach to redefining success in product packaging—directly informed and guided by gamers with limited mobility. It’s truly the collaboration and teamwork from these individuals and groups who helped bring the Xbox Adaptive Controller to gamers around the world. And gaming, everywhere, becomes greater because of that collaborative spirit.

Xbox Adaptive Controller

Xbox Adaptive Controller

To the gamers and industry professionals around the world who shared their thoughts, feelings and feedback on either the Xbox Adaptive Controller itself or the accessible packaging it ships in—thank you. From gamers like Mike Luckett, a combat veteran based in the US who tested and shared feedback on the controller through the beta program, to gamers in the UK who kindly invited us into their homes and shared which iteration of the accessible packaging they liked most—this day of launch is a thanks to all your contributions. On behalf of gamers everywhere, we share our sincere thanks.

While the response from communities, gamers and press when we introduced the controller in May was remarkable, the true impact the Xbox Adaptive Controller has had with gamers becomes clearer when attending events like E3 in Los Angeles in June, wearing an “Xbox Adaptive Controller” t-shirt. Walking the show floor to run a simple errand, you become bombarded with smiles, greetings and high-fives—shared by gamers of all types—embracing and furthering the fondness of supporting inclusivity in gaming. It’s a powerful sentiment of appreciation for inclusivity, and we’re humbled by the reception.

Xbox Adaptive Controller

Xbox Adaptive Controller

Beyond the humbling praise from the gaming industry, the Xbox Adaptive Controller has been equally recognized for its innovative approach to inclusive design in gaming. In fact, just today it was announced that the V&A, the world’s leading museum of art, design and performance, has acquired the controller as part of its Rapid Response Collecting program, which collects contemporary objects reflecting major moments in recent history that touch the world of design, technology and manufacturing. It’s an honor and achievement we did not set out to accomplish but are nonetheless moved by the recognition of the team’s passionate work invested in the Xbox Adaptive Controller, helping it stand out as a truly first of its kind product—in gaming and beyond.

Let today be a celebration of inclusivity in gaming—regardless of your platform, community or game of choice. Whether you’re a gamer using the Xbox Adaptive Controller for the first time or new to gaming, welcome to the Xbox family! Inclusivity starts with the notion of empowering everyone to have more fun.  That means making our products usable by everyone, to welcome everyone, and to create a safe environment for everyone.

If you’re looking for more information on the Xbox Adaptive Controller, peripherals available today to configure it just for your use, or tips on how to get setup, we’ve got you covered. Learn more about peripherals from our hardware partners such as Logitech, RAM and PDP, used to customize your Xbox Adaptive Controller configuration, here. Visit this page to learn more about using Copilot with the Xbox Adaptive Controller. And here is some general product information to help you learn more about the Xbox Adaptive Controller. Thanks again for joining us on this incredible journey of inclusivity; see you online!

Posted on Leave a comment

New accessibility improvements now available for Skype

A few months ago, we provided an update on our continued commitment to making Skype accessible. We are very grateful for the feedback you’ve given us—it continues to be an essential and impactful part of our work. We listened and made changes to make Skype more accessible for everyone.

Below are just some of the recent accessibility improvements available in Skype version 8:

  • Improved navigation now makes the app easier to use. Navigation is smoother and takes a more natural left-to-right and top-to-bottom path.
  • Additional information about messages that are sent and received is now displayed. For example, we now announce when messages are sent and when messages you attempt to send have failed.
  • A number of new keyboard shortcuts make it easier to start a chat, answer a call, and navigate within Skype. Visit Skype support for a full list of shortcuts.
  • Accessibility functionality was rolled out across all platforms. Skype version 8 is available on iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, and most recently iPad.

If you haven’t already done so, we encourage you to upgrade now—only Skype version 8 will be available after September 1, 2018.

We continually work to improve our technology to ensure it is accessible and empowers every person and every organization to achieve more. Please share your comments and feedback via Microsoft Accessibility UserVoice or contact the Disability Answer Desk for real-time support via phone, chat, or ASL videophone. If you are an early adopter and would like to participate in early preview releases, please consider joining the Skype Insider Community.

Posted on Leave a comment

TD Bank empowers employees with assistive technology in Office 365 and Windows 10

Today’s post was written by Bert Floyd, senior IT manager of assistive technologies at TD Bank Group.

My journey with accessible technology at TD started more than 10 years ago, when I was called in to help incorporate a screen reader and Braille display into our retail environment for a new employee who was blind. Back then, it was a steep learning curve for the IT department. That’s not the case today. Over the intervening decade, we have created an inclusive corporate culture that celebrates everyone, including people with disabilities, and provides us with huge business potential. For example, one in seven people* in Canada identifies as having a disability, and there is an increasing incidence of age-related disabilities among our growing elderly demographic. Making sure our services are easily accessible is key to earning the business of this considerable segment of the population.

We are excited about introducing accessible technologies within Microsoft Office 365 and Windows 10 to empower our employees to help us work toward this strategic advantage. We find that most people can benefit from these accessible technologies, whether they identify as having a disability or not, because the technologies are built in to the Office apps. When employees can customize their environment and adapt to a wide variety of situations, they will be far more successful and productive.

And when we accommodate employees who identify as having a disability, we gain their insight and innovation to help us build accessibility right into our products and services. People with disabilities must think creatively about how to do things that other people don’t necessarily have to worry about, and we want to support that creativity in our workplace. We’re deploying Office 365 to all our employees and Windows 10 to almost 100,000 computers, which helps create an accessible workplace and ensure we will not miss out on hiring the best and the brightest.

From our websites to our brick-and-mortar branches and ATMs, we try to consider accessibility in every aspect of the customer experience. And we believe that with a more diverse and inclusive workforce, we’ll be in a better position to get there.

I’m excited about giving our employees the opportunity to leverage the accessibility features in Office 365 and Windows 10 in their everyday work lives. All employees need to think about accessibility, and everyone plays a role in creating a supportive, inclusive culture. When we all use the same inclusive tool set, there is enormous potential for improving productivity and driving awareness about the value of creating accessible documents and presentations for everyone to easily read and understand. Employees at TD already have access to Accessibility Checker, which makes it easy to spot problems and make content in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote more accessible. People are learning about Narrator and Magnifier in Windows 10 and about the built-in color filters.

We have come a long way since hiring that first employee who was blind. Today, approximately 6 percent of our workforce identifies as having a disability. Our Assistive Technologies Lab welcomes anyone to come and learn about inclusive design and the technologies we have available to support our employees. We work with technology projects to help them conform to our IT accessibility standards, and we rolled out a training program for our developers and testers—a number of them with disabilities—to ensure we fully consider accessibility in our customer-facing products and services.

Today, TD prides itself on its diverse and talented workforce, and I’m incredibly lucky to be part of a great team that works hard to put so many resources behind our employees. Along with our assistive technologies, we are using Office 365 and Windows 10 to help us remove barriers for people with disabilities to create a more inclusive workplace that’s as diverse and exciting as the communities we serve.

*A profile of persons with disabilities among Canadians aged 15 years or older, 2012.

—Bert Floyd

Read the case study to learn more about how TD Bank is empowering its employees with assistive technology in Office 365 and Windows 10.

Posted on Leave a comment

Americans with Disabilities Act anniversary an opportunity to recognize workplace accessibility and inclusive design

By Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer

On July 26 we will celebrate the 28th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA stands as one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation and prohibits discrimination while ensuring that people with disabilities have the same opportunities and rights as people without disabilities. It serves as a reminder of both where we have come from as well as the work left to be done.

Since its inception, the ADA has helped break down barriers for people with disabilities in built environments, provision of government services, communications, and employment. Despite a lot of great progress, after nearly 3 decades there is still much to be done, not only to level the playing field, but also to recognize (and seek out!) talented people with disabilities, skills and expertise that we need in our companies. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities hasn’t materially shifted in that time and remains nearly double that of people without disabilities. We are one of the many employers that has the power to influence that number. We take that responsibility seriously. Here are three things we are doing to drive it:

Breaking Down Barriers Through Technology
It’s never been more important to have a diverse and inclusive workforce including people with disabilities. Put simply, it helps us create better products that empower people with disabilities. When accessibility is done well, it becomes invaluable to daily life, the workplace, and play. It’s ubiquitous and easy to use. These values guide us, and I urge you to check out the following:

  • Accessibility built in by design. There is a wealth of goodness built into the core of our products – from Windows to Office and Xbox. Learning Tools, Dictate, Narrator, Translator, Color Blindness Filters, and more. We’ve created a simple one-stop-shop with our Accessibility Feature Sway which has every feature broken down by disability type and we update this and our new website www.microsoft.com/accessibility as new features become available. Do check it out and share!
  • If in doubt, ask. Remember we have a dedicated support team for people with disabilities using Microsoft products, or using accessibility features. The Disability Answer Desk is there 24×7, via chat, phone and in the USA, a dedicated ASL video line. Now in 11 markets and ready to help you get going with your technology
  • Your feedback is gold dust. We want to know what future you want, and technology you want to empower you. Tell us via our Accessibility UserVoice, Disability Answer Desk or tweet @MSFTEnable. Your feedback powers us.
  • The power of innovation. AI is opening doors for innovation for people with disabilities. Invaluable tools like Seeing AI, Microsoft Translator, and Helpicto are built leveraging our vision, knowledge and speech Cognitive Services APIs and so we were excited earlier this year to announce the AI for Accessibility program to open up these technologies to you to create. The application process is now open, and first batch of grant applications are in mid review. Literally can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Creating Forums for Inclusion
It isn’t enough to just talk about inclusion, we need to partner together to drive impact. There are many events we host and attend where this happens, but two have highlighted the appetite for more:

  • Microsoft Ability Summit. For the first time ever, we opened the doors to this internal event to the public and we were humbled by the results. Over the 8 years since we started the Ability Summit, attendance has grown from just 80 people in that first year, to 1,200 Microsoft employees, and 1,200 external guests over the two days. At the event, we demonstrated the latest in accessible technologies and attendees connected with the owners and drivers of those technologies. They also had the opportunity to engage with over 20 companies at an inclusive hiring job fair and heard from our very own CVP of Retail Stores, a panel of dignitaries and CEO Satya Nadella, who shared their thoughts on accessibility and disability. We were honored to include former Senator Tom Harkin who introduced the ADA into the Senate back in 1989 and underscored the need to break down barriers to get people with disabilities into the workforce. It’s our hope that by opening the event up more broadly we can share knowledge and accelerate the process for all organizations to build their programs, hire amazing talent, and reduce the unemployment rate.
A group of people sitting on stage

Creating a Region of Inclusion panel discussion at the 2018 Microsoft Ability Summit.

  • Disability:IN. Just last week in Las Vegas, 1,500 folks from over 160 corporate partners came together to discuss, share and take action on disability inclusion. Disability:IN (previously known as USBLN) is a corporate based NGO, Microsoft is a proud sponsor, and I’m a honoured to be chair of the board of directors. This organization has grown in numbers and strength in the past years and it speaks to the need, appetite and desire from so many companies to not only understand but drive the future of disability inclusion. During this event, over 130 rising leaders met with company leaders and many walked away with jobs and intern positions. We celebrated those that have achieved high scores on the Disability Employment Initiative (DEI), with many achieving 100% including ourselves. Also, technology was a HOT topic, and we dedicated one of the opening plenaries to showing and sharing the latest in accessible inclusive technology – and I had a blast showing Office 365, PowerPoint, Translator, PowerPoint Designer, Auto Alt-Text, Seeing AI and Xbox Adaptive Controller live on stage. It was clear from the room, amazing speakers and companies sharing their journeys, that this is a priority across corporate America, and how we partner together has never been more important.

[embedded content]

Supporting Inclusion in Action
Perhaps one of the best examples of making inclusion real is the Special Olympics. This year Microsoft was proud to be the Presenting Sponsor of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games here in Seattle. With the theme “Rise with Us,” athletes challenged Seattle to make the 2018 games the most inclusive Special Olympics to date and honourary Chair Brad Smith, set the tone – asking Seattle to create a legacy of inclusion that lasts long after the games finish. As part of the event a job fair was held for athletes that included 16 companies including Microsoft. With 4,000 athletes and more than 12,000 volunteers (including 2,000+ Microsoft employees!) participating in the event, we are creating a legacy of inclusion in the region and a galvanizing force epitomized by local athlete Frannie Ronan – the youngest athlete in the games at just 8 years old who inspired us all at the opening ceremony and walked out with 2 silvers and 2 bronzes and a very big smile.

A big crowd of people in a field.

Opening ceremonies of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle

A woman and a child smiling

Jenny Lay-Flurrie with Frannie Ronan at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle

In addition to celebrating the ADA, we recognize individuals and organizations all over the world are developing disability rights policies and programs under the United Nation Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and helping their communities raise awareness of the importance of accessibility and need for an inclusive culture. To make real progress, it will take collaboration from across government, industry, employers and individuals with disabilities to realize the vision of the ADA and reduce the unemployment rate for people with disabilities everywhere.

In the meantime, do explore what technology can do for you through the power of accessibility, keep us grounded in what you want to see going forward, and get involved in forums and supporting these incredible organisations that are going to power the future of disability inclusion.

Posted on Leave a comment

Shin’s story: Using technology to break down the barriers of disability in Japan

Shin’s journey hasn’t been an easy one, but thanks to his parents lobbying a local education board – which once suggested Shin go to a special needs school – he has always been studying at regular schools.

Since elementary school, he studied with the help of computer software, such as Microsoft Word and OneNote. He uses a small, special mouse to draw graphs.

“By using Windows’ on-screen keyboard and moving the mouse, I can use my PC for study and communicating with my friends,” he explained.

Since 2013, Microsoft has assisted his learning, including preparation for the tough university entrance exam, by providing IT tools, such as the on-screen keyboard and a cursor control system that uses eye movements.

Shin is now trialing a new eye tracking software that enables him to move the mouse cursor with his eyes

“I have faced lots of challenges like everyone else, but we often need help too,” Shin said. “I’m currently trialing the new eye tracking software that enables me to move the mouse cursor with my eyes. This is one more example of how technology will help people like me work more efficiently.”

“My dream is that one day these kinds of functions will not be listed under accessibility but will be an integral part of how we all work to make a better future,” he added.

In 2016, Shin successfully passed the entrance exam for Tokyo University after spending a year at a preparatory school together with other students who aimed to enter the country’s competitive universities.

Now as a university student, Shin continues to study on his electric stretcher with assistance and support from helpers and the school. Since April this year, he lives on his own with assistance when he needs to move.

The entrance exam for Tokyo University is one of Japan’s most competitive assessments. Before the exams, Shin submitted a request to the exam authority, the National Center for University Entrance Examinations, notifying them that his physical condition required more attention.

During the exam, Shin sat in a separate room with more time to take the paper, and was assigned an assistant to write down his answers. Shin was also allowed to use a computer, especially when an answer required a graph.

Shin’s favorite quote by Friedrich Nietzsche, the philosopher he admires, is “Man is something that shall be overcome.” The feisty student is often led by these words when reflecting his own physical disability.

Shin, now 21, studies Western Philosophy at Tokyo University

“I believe that we need a new inclusive philosophical framework because technology is now empowering people to become independent beyond any physical barriers,” he says.

Learning from those with disabilities to improve their opportunities

One of those working with people with disabilities, such as Shin, is Microsoft Japan employee Tomoko Ohshima.

Gathering their comments, requests and feedback, she passes those to the tech giant’s developers to create tools to help people with disabilities.

Ohshima was encouraged to take on this project by Microsoft Japan some ten years ago, inspired by her interactions with a colleague, a programmer who is blind. “Technology is so helpful for people!” she says.

Meanwhile, Japan’s entrance exam system is also improving to accommodate students with various disabilities. A consensus has been established to allow students with disabilities to use tools approved by the authorities, such as computers, and to extend the test time depending on each student’s condition. Ohshima’s commitment of the last ten years coincides with this improvement, and has allowed her to witness the transition.

Challenges still remain for students with disabilities. For example, having a computer read out exam questions is rarely permitted in Japan. Instead, a reader is assigned to read the questions aloud for the examinee. This does not always work well for the students –– some students might want to read important parts more slowly, and others might want to have questions read out repeatedly to better understand them.

One of the reasons computer reading has not been approved is because examiners need to create extra exam papers by digitalizing them. This may be avoidable with optical character recognition (OCR).

“We are willing to provide any useful help and technology to create a society in which anyone can have the opportunity to take the entrance exams and be judged fairly regardless of one’s physical condition,” says Ohshima.


To read more about Microsoft Philanthropies’ work to build future ready generations in Asia, click here.

Posted on Leave a comment

Technology sector collaborates to develop HID standard for braille displays

Improving experiences for all our customers is something that we obsess over. We know that advancements in technology and inclusive design can help unlock solutions that empower people with disabilities. We also recognize the need to work together — across the industry — to ensure that no one is left behind.

That is why Microsoft collaborated with Apple and industry organizations to develop an USB-IF Human Interface Design (HID) standard for braille displays. Announced by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) today, the standard will enable plug and play support for braille displays and has received broad support from the tech industry, assistive technology (AT) companies and non-governmental organizations advocating for people who are blind or have low vision.

“Braille is the key to literacy, education, employment and success for blind people all over the world,” said Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind. “An HID standard that allows the seamless integration of refreshable braille displays across devices will make it easier for braille readers to use this critical tool at home, at school, on the job or on the go. The National Federation of the Blind is proud to be a partner in collaboration across technology companies to make braille a game changing priority in the twenty-first century.”

By working together across companies, technologies and devices, we can advance technology for people with disabilities and create a consistent approach for AT providers. The result of HID standardization will improve braille display implementation, decrease costs and time to market, and ultimately empower people who are blind and have low vision. This will simplify development, removing the need for braille devices to have custom software and drivers created for a particular operating system or screen reader. We anticipate support for the standard starting in 2019.

Braille is a critical component for literacy, education and employment for people who are blind or have low vision. The USB-IF HID standard for braille displays has received broad industry support, underscoring the need for plug and play support. Members of the USB-IF HID Working Group include Microsoft, Apple and Google. We have also seen support from organizations like the National Federation of the Blind and Vision Australia, in addition to AT companies like Help Tech GmbH, Baum, HumanWare, Orbit, Bristol Braille, Dolphin Computer Access, Freedom Scientific and NV Access.

“Just like most sighted people, our SuperNova users regularly switch between using their Windows PC and their iPhone. Effortlessly moving your braille display between those devices will be a hugely popular move for our customers,” said Mike Hill, Technical Director, Dolphin Computer Access.

The World Health Organization estimates that 253 million people have a form of visual impairment. Technology can play an important role in creating opportunities for people who are blind or have low vision, and we have the responsibility to help create a level playing field for everyone. We also live in a modern world where customers expect technology to work out of the box, across devices and platforms.

“The ability to quickly and easily connect braille displays to a range of devices at home, at school and in the workplace will be of great benefit to users, especially those who use their devices across several different platforms,” said Damian McMorrow, access technology product owner, Vision Australia.

We know that technology can help unlock barriers for people, and braille is a critical form of communication for many people around the world, whether at home or at work. The new standard is another example of how we can work together to create opportunities for more people and, ultimately, help improve the unemployment rate for people with disabilities.

Together, we can work to create a more inclusive world.