The view from my window on the 24th floor of the W Hotel looked like that of many cities I have visited around the globe these past few years. It was hard to imagine this is home to more than 19.2 million people in the greater metropolis known as Mexico City. Also surprising was the temperature outside; a cool 70 degrees with rain and low clouds (and smog) hanging from the sky. When I left Seattle we were experiencing a heat wave with temperatures hovering in the low 90’s. I soon discovered that the weather in Mexico City is seldom a scorcher due to the area’s 7347 foot elevation of above sea level.
All day Thursday and again on Friday I met with newspaper, magazine, radio and television reporters to talk about Microsoft’s citizenship programs and in particular, our work and that of our partners, to advance “assistive technologies” that help make computers and computing more accessible for people with disabilities. As I prepared to go on stage with local luminaries for the grand opening of the Oritel Conference Thursday afternoon, I gave careful consideration to what I would say. With more than 200 members of the press including at least a dozen television cameras in the room, it was an amazing opportunity to influence change. In essence, my message was pretty simple. The computer has become an essential tool in today’s workplace. An individual who doesn’t know how to use a computer, or who can’t use one because of a disability of one kind or another, faces serious disadvantages for employment.
More than 50 million people in Latin America are affected by disabilities. It is estimated that 90 percent of these people are currently unemployed or underemployed. That is a tremendous waste of human potential.
At Microsoft, we believe that everyone deserves an opportunity to realize their full potential. That is why we build mainstream accessible computing features into our Windows operating system and so many of our products. In addition, we work with more than 120 partners around the world who build specialized hardware and software solutions that help make computing and computers more accessible.
You see, disability isn’t something that happens to someone else. Disability due to birth disorders, aging, illness or injury is something that will affect nearly every one of us at one time or another during our lifetime. Since medical professionals are often a person’s first point of contact at the time of a temporary or permanent disability, it is imperative that they are familiar with the tools and resources available to help their patients remain independent, productive, and contributing members of society. That was another important message that I delivered in my Friday afternoon keynote to the Oritel conference attendees, many of them clinicians, social workers and rehabilitation specialists.
I’d like to thank my hosts at Oritel and our fabulous Microsoft Mexico team for helping me get out the word. Thanks also to Susanna, my very talented interpreter, without whose services my messages would have been lost. Finally, thanks to Javier Vazquez Gomez whose youthful enthusiasm, optimism and keen intellect made my visit all the more enjoyable. All of you are responsible for a visit that I shall remember for many years to come.
If you would like to see a brief television interview that I did with Canal TV during my visit to Mexico CLICK HERE.
If you would like to listen to a nine minute radio interview I did with NOTICIAS 88.9 Radio CLICK HERE
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft Corporation