Microsoft announced today two new partnerships in the UK meant to increase job opportunities for people with disabilities and help them bolster social connections amid COVID-19 lockdowns imposed in many parts of the world.
The software giant has partnered with the UK Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to guide job seekers with disabilities as they look for employment opportunities. Under the alliance, Microsoft will train 26,000 work coaches from DWP in using the firm's accessibility services like immersive reader, magnifier, and automated captions. Most recently, immersive reader was made available on PowerPoint for the web, OneDrive, SharePoint, and MakeCode after its debut last year.
Microsoft will also provide training in accessibility fundamentals to those coaches. The goal is to let job seekers with disabilities easily access those tools in order to ask for assistance when they apply for a job.
Regarding the new partnership, Hector Minto, Senior Tech Evangelist at Microsoft UK, said:
“It is critical that people with disabilities get the right advice and support to secure or retain employment. The steps we are taking with the DWP are an example of the right intervention being deployed at the right time and at the required scale. We have been using this accessibility training at Microsoft for the past three years and know the impact it has made on our own employees’ ability and confidence to support people with disabilities."
Microsoft is also working with SeeAbility, a UK-based charity group. The two entities will collaborate on digital inclusion programs in the country meant to develop the digital skills of support workers so they can help persons with disabilities deal with social isolation as the world grapples with shelter-in-place orders.
These partnerships are part of Microsoft's five-year commitment announced today by Brad Smith, the company's president. The new effort aims to develop technology that is easily accessible to people with disabilities, especially those seeking jobs, as well as build inclusive workplaces.