Early in my career at Microsoft, I was inspired to see how accessible technology empowered and enriched the lives of individuals with disabilities and enabled new opportunities to learn and communicate. These experiences fueled my passion to ensure that all students have the right technology in place to help them learn. Educators understand the importance of supporting students with special needs, yet the process of selecting and using accessible technology can be complex.
Today, Microsoft and Dell are announcing a new collaborative effort to make it easier for schools to empower students and teachers with accessible technology and training. Dell’s Assistive Technology Service—created by special education teachers and accessibility specialists—simplifies the process of selecting accessible devices and assistive technology products. Through this Service, schools receive support and training including Microsoft’s accessibility guides and curriculum resources that illustrate how to use accessibility features in Microsoft products, like Windows and Office, in order to enhance learning and create accessible teaching materials like digital talking textbooks.
Dell and Microsoft share the belief that accessible technology provides educational opportunities for students with disabilities and learning-styles differences. At Microsoft, we actively listen and learn from our customers to identify best practices of accessibility in schools and report recommendations for providing accessible technology. Dell’s Assistive Technology Service adopts these recommendations so educators can focus on instructional practices that empower learners with disabilities, and not on the administrative tasks of deploying technology.
When educators have more time to focus on instruction, teachers have opportunities to develop intriguing ways to use technology in the classroom. I’m inspired by the ways educators are using technology to make lessons come to life. Many schools are using Kinect in the classroom to encourage students with disabilities to engage with curricula using physical gestures and their voice. Lagoa Secondary School in Portugal noticed that the use of Kinect classroom activities can boost subject matter proficiency, promote class cohesion, and strengthen social skills among students of varying abilities and disabilities. Teachers from Loudoun County, Virginia are sharing their advice on using Kinect in special education classrooms.
In Washington state, a school for students who are blind uses Microsoft Lync―part of Office 365―for distance learning. Office 365 for education―a free tool for educators and students worldwide―empowers educators and students to work together on classroom projects and documents simultaneously, collaborating in real time with virtual meetings, and participating in instant messaging and video conferencing across the globe. To help keep students safe as they learn online, we promote a safer online experience for students by providing online safety resources as part of Dell’s Assistive Technology Service.
Together with Partners in Learning and Dell’s Assistive Technology Service, Microsoft is dedicated to providing creative accessibility solutions for education so every student can realize their potential.