Working Towards a More Accessible World: ASL Answer Desk

Blog post written by Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Senior Director CSS - Trusted Experience Team
At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more. One of the ways we do deliver on that commitment to people of all abilities is through our Disability Answer Desk. Today, I had the honor of speaking about our ASL support, which allows people who are deaf or hard of hearing obtain assistance for using Microsoft products from an agent who speaks ASL as their primary language through a videophone, at the TDI Biennial Conference in Baltimore, MD.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler delivered the keynote and discussed how digital technology can help put all Americans on equal footing for communications and information. The FCC is one of the few agencies that has fully embraced technology’s potential for chance, creating a ASL Customer Support Line in 2014. Any person who is deaf can sign over the Internet using any computer or mobile device with a camera. For the more than 38 million Americans that have hearing problems, these types of services not only facilitate communication access, but also potentially increase employment opportunities for deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired individuals.
We believe that technology can and should be empowering to people, and we’ve seen how impactful this technology can be in the three years since we launched the Disability Answer Desk. Through technology, we can better support customers with disabilities and answer their questions regarding accessibility and assistive technologies such as screen readers, magnifiers and speech recognition software.
We recently launched ASL support as a new offering in the Disability Answer Desk, which gives people who are most comfortable communicating through sign language the opportunity to fix their issue with someone that speaks their own language. Microsoft is one of only four entities – one being the FCC -  that currently provides this level of ASL support to better serve our deaf and hard of hearing. I was honored to share this great story, which is near and dear to my heart, at the Town Hall following the Chairman’s remarks; for those of you unable to attend TDI you can learn more about the ASL Answer Desk in our June blog and by reading’s experience with the desk in July.

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