Disability News

Using insights from Microsoft employees with disabilities to build accessible employee experiences

Hope Idaewor and Faris Mango ran inclusive usability tests with a range of Microsoft employees with disabilities, which informed the development of an internal tool. 

Microsoft employees are the company’s first and best customers who often test features and enable product groups to refine experiences before going to market. These employees can provide their feedback through inclusive usability tests, which are used to understand how people with disabilities interact with technology.

There are also industry standards for accessibility when it comes to the text, contrast, or graphics. However, Hope Idaewor wanted to go beyond accessibility requirements and focus on offering an intuitive user experience for everyone.

“Focusing on usability ensures that those lived experiences are actually accounted for and that the people that you're building for have actually used the application and have given you contextual feedback,” says Idaewor, a user researcher on the Digital Studio team at Microsoft.

After conducting usability tests with employees with disabilities, some of the findings that surfaced were the need to clarify technical jargon and acronyms, add a user guide video that include American Sign Language (ASL), and ensure that the video has better contrast so it would show up properly for someone with low vision or is working in a bright environment.

The team was able to add a video with an ASL interpreter among other changes to make the tool more accessible and inclusive.

It’s important to think about accessibility from the beginning of the product-making process.

“Much like a house, you need to start with a strong foundation,” says Faris Mango, a software engineering manager in Microsoft Digital. “Our team really put a lot of effort into this process, and there’s nothing better than knowing that we made someone's day better because we took this time to do it.”