ADA Anniversary: Looking Forward to a People-Centric Society

The following blog post has been written by Laura Ruby - Director of Accessibility Policy and Standards at Microsoft. She has worked in this area of the technology sector for more than 22 years.


The Americans with Disabilities Act turns 23 today and we have done a lot to make technology more accessible during its first two decades. But, we can accomplish even more in the coming years.

The landmark ADA delivered a promise of equal access to 43 million Americans with disabilities. Last year, I wrote about how much the technology industry has delivered by offering a broad range of accessible devices and services. This year, I am looking forward, proposing three steps that industry can take to ensure a more inclusive future. 

Invest – Industry has made our devices and services more accessible to people with disabilities, but we can do much more to make our technology people-centric.  We need to move from accessibility features and functions to scenario-based outcomes that benefit everyone. People-centric technology better anticipates our needs, understands our intentions, and assesses our immediate surroundings to deliver personalized and relevant experiences. It uses natural user interfaces (NUI) that allow devices and services to automatically adapt to users, much as a human assistant might. Kinect, for example, translates voice commands and gestures into actions on screen. Technology companies should invest in NUI and similar technologies and use innovations to better serve everyone.

Foster the Next Generation – As more companies and organizations make our devices and services accessible, we will need a new generation of trained engineers. It is our responsibility to foster the next generation of accessibility professionals by ensuring there is training, certification and a supportive community. Microsoft has taken a leadership role by supporting the formation of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP). This group will provide the strategic leadership, international perspective, operational focus and support needed to elevate accessibility work from today’s grassroots level to an internationally respected profession. I encourage my industry colleagues to join Microsoft in supporting this effort.

Support Policies and Programs – Many of us began our accessibility careers around the time the ADA was enacted.  Since then we have worked collaboratively with the U.S. government and people with disabilities to create programs and policies that provide access to the built and technology environment.  Now that over 130 countries have ratified the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) we must help governments and organizations around the world develop digital inclusion policies. Please visit the G3ict to learn how industry, policy makers and citizens with disabilities are joining forces to ensure inclusion on a global scale.

Happy 23rd ADA Anniversary! I look forward to everything we will accomplish together in the coming year.


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