Microsoft: Utilising our expertise for greater accessibility

Watch a video of this case study. This case study is one of 10 most innovative examples selected from 182 case studies collated over the period 2003-2008.

Company Description:Microsoft is a Software Products & Services Company. Its global turnover is $51bn. In Ireland, it employs 1,200 full time staff and 700 vendor staff.

Business Issue:
Unemployment among people with disabilities is 60% (the national level is 4%) and participation in third level education is 2%. Assistive Technology (AT) can help to remove many of the barriers to work and education but research shows that 70% of AT is discarded due to a lack of training. In 2000, Microsoft established a partnership with Enable Ireland to help people get the greatest benefit from AT, to live independent lives, extend their education and access the workforce.

Solution Applied:
Together with the Dublin Institute of Technology, Enable Ireland now has a High Tech Assistive Training Programme comprising an intensive educational course structured to enable people with disabilities, carers and support staff to learn how to use AT effectively. The course is delivered over two weeks at Microsoft’s campus in Sandyford and is designed to train people in the use of technology from communication aids, computer access and alternative forms of power mobility to environmental control systems such as door openers. Entering its seventh year, the AT training course has continually attracted more applicants and in 2007, a second course was added. Over 150 people have been trained to date, impacting over 500 people. Due to this growing demand, Enable Ireland and Microsoft have come together to launch the first National Assistive Technology Training Centre in Dublin city which will significantly extend the programme’s reach. AT training, advice and support is now available all year round, at a central location, enabling the benefits to reach more people across the country.

Company Benefits:

  • This is a mutual partnership in all respects. Enable Ireland is now providing Microsoft with feedback on the accessibility of its products which will determine the features of products which will be used by millions of people around the world. Both organisations are using their areas of expertise to help raise awareness of Assistive Technology to a broad spectrum of interest groups.
  • The Microsoft/Enable Ireland AT partnership has forged a path which has enabled the Assistive Technology service to successfully secure funding elsewhere to further develop the information and advice components of its service.
  • Microsoft employees have volunteered their time to help with a range of operational IT issues including the development of the organisation’s website.

Stakeholder Benefits:

  • In addition to significant financial and software donations over the past seven years (in excess of €250,000), Microsoft has also worked closely with Enable Ireland to help develop long-term strategies for the area of Assistive Technology.
  • Microsoft has supplied software to the value of €150,000 to improve the IT capacity of Enable Ireland centres in Dublin, Clare, Galway, Limerick and Kerry.

Accessibility would greatly benefit from being on the national agenda and while this is improving, the need continues to broaden awareness and education.

A strong partnership that develops and adapts over time is key. There is also value in inviting other organisations and institutions to be part of the reach of the partnership.

Departments Involved:
All Departments

Solution Champion:

Tara O’Shea, Community Affairs Manager,