The inclusion of people with disabilities is integral to Microsoft’s mission to empower every person to achieve more. We celebrate and live this mission each day, from our work on inclusive hiring to inclusive design. And we’re energized to learn the ways that our inclusively designed technologies enable our customers.
Today, we’re launching a new video series focusing on individual stories, highlighting how accessible technologies have had an impact on their lives. It’s quite appropriate timing, as October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month as well as Dyslexia Awareness Month. The series will carry us through up to International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3.
We invite you to follow along weekly as we share these stories about the transformative change people have experienced with Microsoft technologies. The first story is Andrew and Mitra’s, which shows how, for those who experience learning differences, finding a solution with technology that opens the doors to literacy is an empowering thing. For Andrew, that solution was Microsoft Learning Tools, which was just added to Edge with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update and is coming soon to Word for iPad.
Here’s their story:
Andrew Huber is an eight-year-old who braced himself for the beginning of third grade. Meanwhile, his mother, Mitra, relentlessly searched for a solution to her son’s ongoing struggle to learn how to read. She did not want this year to be like previous ones.
“The difficulty reading continued from first grade to second grade, no matter what method and approach the school tried and we tried at home.”
Educators struggled to figure out what held Andrew back. According to Mitra, even specialized one-on-one reading tutorials in school yielded little to no improvement, leaving Andrew discouraged.
"It is devastating to see your bright, beautiful child feel like they can’t accomplish the things they want to accomplish."
Seeking further answers, Mitra took Andrew to more specialists, and in the summer after second grade, experts diagnosed him with Dyslexia. Mitra says it was the first of two major breakthroughs to happen within a matter of weeks.
“He was so happy to know what was going on, that it wasn’t through any fault of his own, that there was an understandable explanation for why he was having so much trouble.”
Andrew doesn’t see words as discreet images on a page, and reading different fonts is like reading a different language for him. In other words, traditional literary layouts are inaccessible to him. Knowing her son has Dyslexia gave Mitra the focus to search for specific solutions tailored to his needs.
It was around this time that a friend of Mitra's recommended she look into Microsoft's Learning Tools. Within days Mitra and Andrew were in a Microsoft Store. The staff pulled Learning Tools up in OneNote, and Andrew was able to read for the first time.
“Andrew, in that moment, conquered this fear and realized that he could access something that had been inaccessible to him, and I saw my little boy read and knew that here was an answer, that here was something that could change his life.”
Andrew now has an entirely new way to look at words on a page because Learning Tools automatically conforms words to one large font, then spaces them out, and changes their color. These customizations opened his eyes to the world of literacy.
Mitra says now Andrew uses Learning Tools regularly. If he wants to research something of interest, he can dictate a search to Cortana, pull the article or book into OneNote, click on the Immersive Reader, and then he’s able to read about it.
This year, Andrew will enter the third grade with his own laptop equipped with Office 365’s built-in Learning Tools. Mitra believes this will empower him to achieve newly discovered success in school.
“I’m really excited to see what this year brings for him, because I really think that his teachers and classmates are going to be completely blown away by the boy he is this year versus the boy who left them last year.”
Check the Microsoft Accessibility Blog weekly to discover more stories of people pushing the boundaries of productivity and inclusion with Microsoft technologies.