In conversation with Troy Waller, Learning Delivery Specialist and Accessibility Lead at Microsoft Education.
We all want children to achieve their full potential – whatever that might be. It is key to ensure that all children have access to the right tools and technology to foster learning. Accessibility is a priority for Microsoft. We want everyone to be empowered when using our technology, so we built a huge array of free features and tools in both our hardware and software that parents can switch on for their children.
It’s accessible technology, yes, but it’s also individualised technology for primary and high school children, for university or TAFE students, and thanks to popularity of Microsoft in enterprise, those in the workplace. Learning how to get the most from our apps during their schooldays literally sets students up for life because what they now use at home or at school is everywhere in the workplace.
This continuum of technology means you don’t need to check your apps and tools at the door when you move from grade three to grade four, or from primary to high school – you can take all these apps and features with you to high school, to university, and into the workforce.
We’re not creating a dependence on some sort of special technology that can only be used for a brief period in a unique educational setting – instead, the Microsoft tools and features that children learn to use now will be available for the rest of their lives.
You know your child better than anyone else, so it’s worth taking the time to become familiar with the features and functions that are available in the Microsoft accessibility ecosystem. There’s a lot of helpful information available at https://aka.ms/MECAccessibility. Here you can identify what will support your child – allowing you to also become an even more powerful advocate, sharing this information with your child’s teachers or school.
Individualised and accessible technology has different meanings for everyone – a student with a visual impairment will need different support to a child who has broken her arm and can’t use a keyboard for a while. It’s a question of finding the right tools for you and your child.
Most Australian schools have access to the Microsoft cloud and licences for Microsoft 365 that your child can access. For example, by turning on Immersive Reader and combining that with Dictate and the Editor functions in apps like Word and PowerPoint, parents and teachers can create a powerful learning environment that is accessible to almost everyone.
For students with specific learning challenges we also offer numeracy support, literacy support, and speaking and listening support. Our accessibility tools span lots of Microsoft technologies, including the Xbox Adaptive Controller to ensure no one is left out.
Our focus is on building authentic inclusive tools, not just productivity tools. Thanks to the Microsoft licence agreements that every education department in Australia has, and that most dioceses and independent schools have, your child is already likely able to access Microsoft 365 Education for free via their school*. Activate now at https://www.microsoft.com/en-AU/education/products/office
Accessibility features are available in many versions of our tools, including the traditional clients and browser-based apps, so it’s important to understand which tool best suits your child. It’s not that one is better than the other – but that one might be better for a specific need or context. It won’t take you long to work out what works best for you and your child.
At Microsoft it’s our mission to help every person on the planet to achieve more – and that starts in school and at home.
* To qualify, students need an eligible school email address and internet access. Eligibility requirements