By Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer
We recently attended the 20th Annual U.S. Business Leadership Network (USBLN) National Conference in Orlando. It was truly an amazing week with over 1,200 people from across the U.S. corporate sector coming together to empower the business community to create inclusive workplaces that value people with disabilities. This year, Microsoft had an especially strong presence with 25 folks representing the company, speaking in panels (including a new technology track) and interviewing prospective employees with disabilities. So many moments of inspiration and I want to share a few nuggets of joy, many of which reflect the progress we’ve made in our accessibility journey here at Microsoft.
This was my 7th USBLN, and each year we increase our knowledge in this space, learning from peers across industries while sharing our own journey. As we shared recently, the USBLN Disability Equality Index (DEI) has taught us a great deal about disability inclusion and it was humbling to receive a perfect score on the DEI this year and be one of the 2017 Disability Equality Index (DEI) Best Places to Work! I’m so proud to see the wonderful progress we’ve made and even more excited to see what else we can do to make Microsoft an even more inclusive place to work.
While we’re humbled to receive this recognition, creating an inclusive environment that attracts diverse talent isn’t something we do just for the heck of it – we do it because it makes business sense. Without diverse talent, we couldn’t build products that work for everyone and that’s critical to achieving our mission. We continue to seek out great talent, so please take a look at our Inclusive Hiring Site, which includes all of our open roles focused on accessibility as well as provides more information about Microsoft’s inclusive hiring efforts. In that spirit do check out four videos we released during the USBLN conference that follow the personal journeys of several amazing Microsoft employees: Amos Miller, Jessica Rafuse, Joey Chemis, and Swetha Machanavajhala. They represent the kind of diverse talent that every organization needs to succeed in a global marketplace.
What’s most exciting is seeing what can come of hiring diverse talent and what a passionate group of people can accomplish. As part of each year’s conference, USBLN presents several leadership awards to recognize leading disability workplace, supply chain, and marketplace practices. I’m incredibly excited to announce that Microsoft was given the Marketplace Leadership Award in the Product Design Category. This award represents work from across the company, including Narrator updates, Braille support, Accessibility Checker, which now sits right next to spell check across Office 365 products, new features like Presentation Translator (real time captioning!), and PowerPoint Designer which gives the ability to create beautiful slides with literally a couple of clicks. While I’m so very proud of the work so far, and the milestone it represents on our accessibility journey, we are not done! The list is long and we look forward to launching more features and experiences in the near future.
I came away from this year’s conference humbled by the amount of work accomplished by so many to drive disability inclusion across industries and the incredible commitment demonstrated to continue that journey. The technical track was deemed a great success and we’ll be working to bring more of the same next year!
I put a challenge out there in the opening session to see what we can do to change an unemployment rate that hasn’t materially shifted in nearly 30 years. With the power in the room, anything is possible. So please, if you haven’t gotten involved with USBLN, do reach out. Use the DEI to grow wisdom and build your journey to disability inclusion.
Lastly, on behalf of the entire Microsoft team, thank you USBLN team for hosting such an incredible event. Can’t wait for next year!