Facebook and Microsoft have been named among the honorees set to receive Helen Keller Achievement Awards at a gala scheduled for April 4. Both companies are being recognized for their efforts to provide products and services that are accessible and inclusive.
Since 1994, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) has been issuing awards in memory of Helen Keller, who was the organization’s lead ambassador for more than 40 years. The likes of Apple, Google, and Netflix have all been given the honor in the past, according to the AFB website.
Facebook has been chosen for its inclusivity initiative, which makes the social media platform welcoming to people with disabilities. One feature that the AFB has spotlighted in particular is Automatic Alternative Text, which generates image descriptions so that partially sighted and blind people can be updated on the contents of photographs uploaded by their friends. The company is also being lauded for its commitment accessibility options and assistive technologies.
Meanwhile, Microsoft was picked as a result of a wide range of projects from across the Windows ecosystem and beyond. Examples given by the AFB include the Seeing AI app, which uses artificial intelligence to provide a narration of the user’s environment, and Eye Control for Windows 10, which allows people with mobility issues like those caused by Lou Gehrig’s disease to interact with their computer using eye movements alone.
The company has also made a wide range of options available across the Office suite, like the optical character recognition supplied by Office Lens. Even the Xbox One gets a mention, thanks to features like Copilot and the accessibility API offered to developers.
The majority of users will never need to call upon the functionality described in this article – but the people who do rely upon it for a positive experience. The Helen Keller Achievement Awards demonstrate the importance of accessibility to products and services that are intended for a mass audience.
Of course, it’s relatively easy for a company the size of Microsoft or Facebook to dedicate time and resources to developing these options. Hopefully, shining a light on the work that they’re doing will convince others to follow their lead.
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