Anne Taylor, a woman who is blind, smiles while working on a Microsoft Surface device

Microsoft named Disability Confident Leader for focus on staff equality

Microsoft has been named a Disability Confident Leader for its inclusive approach to hiring people with disabilities and ensuring they can learn new skills.

The title has been awarded by the UK Government because of Microsoft’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity, as well as its work in encouraging suppliers and vendors to do the same.

The Department for Work and Pensions recognised Microsoft’s efforts to attract and recruit people with disabilities via its global Inclusive Hiring Program and to train managers to understand the needs of those with non-visible disabilities. It also noted Microsoft’s flexibility when assessing people for roles so those with disabilities have the best opportunity to show they can do a job, adjust workplaces to include sign language interpreters and ensure all staff have access to disability equality awareness training.

The company has worked with the Government to enhance digital inclusion and accessibility in the public sector, and help the Department for Work and Pensions embrace inclusive design.

Anne Taylor, a woman who is blind, uses a braille keyboard with a Surface device

Microsoft has worked with the Government to enhance digital inclusion and accessibility in the public sector

Clare Barclay, Chief Operating Officer at Microsoft UK, said: “At Microsoft we believe that diversity and inclusion leads to better performing teams and higher quality output, leading to better and more relevant products and experiences for our customers. By empowering people to be the best they can be, the culture that is created by those values and principles feeds through to our partners and customers.

“We’re proud to be a Disability Confident employer, and are committed to improving our approach to helping people with a disability thrive at work, as well as encouraging our 30,000 partners, who play such a pivotal role in driving change in the UK technology industry, to do the same. We hope that by sharing our learnings, other organisations can accelerate their disability inclusion programs and hire great talent. Together, we can reduce the unemployment rate for people with disabilities.”

Microsoft also has a well-established Employee Resource Group focused on accessibility, which actively works with staff to support them in their career. Many environmental and workplace adjustments companies can implement are cost-effective, while staff can play a role in fostering a culture of diversity and inclusivity.

Microsoft’s products also have built-in features that help people with disabilities, such as reading out text, displaying captions and keeping notifications on screen for longer. It has also developed the Xbox Adaptive Controller, making gaming accessible to more people.

Anima Verma, a Global Service Delivery Lead at Microsoft in the UK, was left with impaired vision following a cornea transplant earlier this year.

“Following the operation, I was very anxious about the impact my vision would have on my work and career,” she said. “It made me think about all the people who have invisible disabilities and focus on their own, and their company’s, success.

“It was a very difficult situation for me, but the support I received from Microsoft made me feel energised, and I now support and encourage others who have disabilities. Tools such as Accessibility Checker and Dictate, are now a regular part of my screen time, and with a passion for inclusivity, I have started taking part in trials of new products that help people with visual impairments. So, I’m helping to ensure that future tools are designed with inclusivity at their core.”

Sarah Prince, an Enterprise Account Manager at Microsoft, has hearing loss. She uses the Speech to Text function during video conferencing calls to ensure she captures what is being said.

“Microsoft offers me a supportive environment where the isolation of hearing loss can be somewhat overcome with teams who understand and care,” she said. “I don’t feel that my hearing loss will hold me back, and I now raise awareness of the need for better subtitling in companies across the UK.”

Learn more about the accessibility features built into Microsoft products

A blue Microsoft Surface keyboard

According to Government figures, 46.3% of working-age people with disabilities are in employment compared with 76.4% of working-age people without a disability. According to the latest figures, from 2008, 19% of staff with a disability experienced unfair treatment at work compared with 13% of workers without a disability.

Research from disability equality charity Scope found that two in five people with disabilities who are unemployed but looking for a job don’t feel confident about their chances of finding one in the next six months. Just over half (51%) of job applications from people with disabilities result in an interview, compared with 69% for applicants who do not have a disability.