Microsoft commits $25M to its AI for Accessibility program

If you’ve read Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s recent book, you know that making technology more accessible to people with disabilities is personal for him. Over the course of the last few years, large parts of the company have dedicated themselves to building tools that enable people with disabilities and mental health conditions to do more. Today, the company announced that it is putting more money behind these efforts through its $25 million, five-year AI for Accessibility project.

“Around the world, only one in 10 people with disabilities has access to assistive technologies and products,” Microsoft president Brad Smith writes in today’s announcement. “By making AI solutions more widely available, we believe technology can have a broad impact on this important community.”

Like the company’s AI for Earth project, which launched last year, AI for Accessibility aims to provide seed grants to developers, universities, inventors and NGOs. The focus of their projects needs to be on “creating solutions that will create new opportunities and assist people with disabilities with work, life, and human connections.” Then, the company will take the projects that show the most promise and connect their teams with its own experts to help them scale.

In addition to all of this, Microsoft also pledges to bring inclusive design to its products.

“Disabilities can be permanent, temporary or situational. By innovating for people with disabilities, we are innovating for us all,” Smith writes. “By ensuring that technology fulfills its promise to address the broadest societal needs, we can empower everyone – not just individuals with disabilities – to achieve more.”