AbilityNet: Helping People with Disabilities #UpgradeYourWorld


     The right tools, in the right hands can help everyone – regardless of our frailties – to achieve our true potential and advance as a civilisation.

~Stephen Hawking


     Technology should empower people, not limit them. It seems a fairly simple proposition, and one that is at the heart of Microsoft’s mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. For people with disabilities the promise – and the challenge – of this mission can be particularly complex.

     For many people with disabilities, technology such as computers, smartphones and tablets are a lifeline that can transform their life, connect them with family, friends and work colleagues and give them a sense of independence. And we’re a richer society for it. Would we have the same understanding of the universe if technology hadn’t empowered theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking to conduct and communicate his work in quantum mechanics?

     There’s also a challenge with technology, however. For millions of people with disabilities and impairments, using technology can be a daunting task. Take the example of the visually challenged, whether that is partial sight, complete blindness or age-related deterioration. Reading text in the default font size of any computer is, for the most part, impossible. Similar challenges exist for people with dexterity or physical challenges such as motor neuron disease, making it difficult to type, move a mouse, or swipe a finger across a screen.

     Fortunately, companies such as Microsoft have spent millions of pounds and decades of effort to make our technologies accessible to all. And that’s where AbilityNet comes in. AbilityNet helps people with any disability and of any age to identify the best way to unlock the power of the technology in their life. There is no one size fits all solution - every person is different, everyone uses their technology differently and often needs detailed expert information as well as one-to-one guidance and support.

      AbilityNet works with people in the workplace, in education and supports them at home. Their expert staff combine technical knowledge with a thorough understanding of the impact of different conditions and disabilities. As well as one to one services, AbilityNet provides a wide range of free information and advice on their website and through a free helpline.

     This work makes AbilityNet a perfect partner for Microsoft in our global initiative, Upgrade Your World. This year-long project celebrates people and organisations doing great things, including partnerships with 10 global and 100 local charities, 10 of which are in the UK. Each charity will receive $50,000 (roughly £33,000).

     “Our goal is to share our expert knowledge with as many people as possible,” said Robin Christopherson, Head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet. “This support from Microsoft will help us upgrade the resources we offer, and in particular to improve the reach and usability of ‘My Computer My Way’, our comprehensive guide to accessibility features built into widely used technology. We already reach almost half a million people each year and, with this help, we can reach even more.”

To find out more about how AbilityNet is helping to empower people with disabilities, visit their website: https://www.abilitynet.org.uk/

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