On July 29, a year after Microsoft released Windows 10, the software giant will pull the plug on the free upgrade offer that enabled millions of Windows 7 and 8.1 users to get the new operating system at no cost. After that date, owners of older Windows PCs will need to pay up in order to install Windows 10.
There is one exception, according to Microsoft Senior Program Manager Daniel Hubbell. In a Microsoft Accessibility Blog post, he wrote, “We want to clarify that that deadline will ‘not’ apply to customers who use assistive technologies. We are continuing to deliver on our previously shared vision for accessibility for Windows 10 and we are committed to ensuring that users of assistive technologies have the opportunity to upgrade to Windows 10 for free as we do so.”
Making technology more accessible to people with disabilities has become a priority for the Redmond, Wash., corporation.
In January, the company tapped Jenny Lay-Flurrie to serve as the new chief accessibility officer, who reports to Susan Hauser, corporate vice president for Microsoft’s new Business and Corporate Responsibility Group. She replaced Rob Sinclair, who went on to head Microsoft Windows and Devices Group’s accessibility efforts.
Jenny Lay-Flurrie leads a cross-company advisory team charged with promoting accessibility, inclusion and transparency throughout the massive organization and its product groups. The appointment is part of a broader effort to bake accessibility into Microsoft’s corporate culture and product strategy. Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer at Microsoft, said in a statement that his company is “tapping engineering leads within our Applications and Services and our Cloud and Enterprise Groups to lead the accessibility work in their respective business groups.”
A month earlier, Microsoft announced that it was backing the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (G3ict) charter, which calls for governments to demand only accessible technologies from their suppliers.
Of course, Microsoft isn’t alone in helping disabled users embrace technology.
Last month, Facebook made its photo-sharing features accessible on iOS, allowing blind or visually impaired users to “see” their friends’ vacation photos, snapshots and other moments as they cross their timelines. Using a process called automatic alternative text, Facebook uses object-recognition technology to analyze a photo’s content and describe them as text, which can be read aloud through screen reader applications.
“While visual content provides a fun and expressive way for people to communicate online, consuming and creating it poses challenges for people who are blind or severely visually impaired. With more than 39 million people who are blind, and over 246 million who have a severe visual impairment, many people may feel excluded from the conversation around photos on Facebook,” stated Facebook.
In March, amid rumblings that T-Mobile was preparing to offer data-only mobile plans, eWEEK’s Todd R. Weiss discovered that the carrier had actually been quietly offering such plans for years. The provider had made its data-only plans, which include unlimited texting, available to hearing-impaired customers.