LaDeana Huyler, Microsoft Accessibility

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This week, at the Partners in Learning Global Forum in Washington, D.C., more than 700 of the most innovative educators from around the world came together to discuss their big ideas. These extraordinary educators are focused on improving teaching and learning through the effective use of technology in the classroom. One way educators are creating a better future for students is through helping their students with disabilities learn and communicate in new ways with accessible technology.

Educators are faced with the challenge of both integrating technology into the classroom and teaching students of all learning styles and abilities, including students with disabilities. Students with disabilities face unique challenges in learning and in life. Microsoft has long been dedicated not only to building accessibility into our products but also providing accessibility resources for educators.

We are continually growing our commitment to accessibility in education by listening to what teachers need and creating the accessibility training resources they request. In response such requests, Microsoft recently published Accessibility Curriculum Resources for Special Education for Windows 7 and Office 2010 . This curriculum resource provides specific examples and best practices that show how the PC can be personalized for students with learning style differences or physical disabilities. And, it shows educators how to create accessible documents and teaching materials in Office 2010. Teachers are using Office 2010 to prepare effective teaching tools to support students with disabilities. With Office 2010, teachers can create animated instructional presentations, convert documents to audiobooks, and include subtitles with audio and video media. They can also check the accessibility of a Word document, Excel worksheet, or PowerPoint presentation with Accessibility checker.

Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) is just one example of a school district that is leading the way, and I had the privilege of touring their staff training center and visiting with their accessibility specialists this week. Loudoun County Public schools has a ten-person assistive technology team that utilizes the built-in features in Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office products to help educators throughout their district incorporate accessibility best practices into the curriculum in a cost-effectively way. Read how Loudoun County Public Schools uses familiar technology to make learning more accessible for all students. At the Global Forum, teachers had an opportunity to attend the accessibility teacher training workshop and get hands-on experience using the accessibility features of Windows and Office. We also shared the story of a blind student named Ignacia Picas who attends Colegio San Benito, a school in Santiago, Chile that uses accessible software to help Ignacia reach the top of her class. Ignacia using a laptop running the Windows operating system and its accessibility features, Microsoft Office, and JAWS screen reading software to fully integrate into her classroom and maintain a near-perfect grade point average. Her teachers provide her with quizzes and exams in Microsoft Word document.

While here, we have met with educators from Chile, Portugal, Germany, Australia, Russia, the United States, and Ireland to have in-depth discussions and share best practices about the use of accessible technology in schools. On the Partners in Learning network, we plan to continue this global dialogue to help educators worldwide lead the way in engaging students through accessible technology.