Technology is woven into the fabric of modern society, it’s our road to the future. Personally, technology allows me to live with autonomy, independence and most of all happiness.
The beauty of the technology industry is that it exists in a constant state of evolution pushing against the barrier of possibility to instigate change. It’s a platform to create the future, right now. The question is would this future be accessible or inclusive? Disabled people are an avid user-base of technology so designing for accessibility is crucial for any industry. Accessibility is basically usability.
Hector Minto the Technical Evangelist for Accessibility at Microsoft is at the forefront of advocating accessibility, assistive technology and inclusion.
As an MDUK Trailblazer passionate about accessible gaming and assistive technology, I along with various other Trailblazers were invited to attend the Pre-Launch of the Microsoft Store London which opened on 11th July on Oxford Circus.
“Our flagship Microsoft Store in London represents a unique way to deliver on our mission to empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more.” – from the Microsoft London Store website.
Before I write about the Microsoft Store, I want to thank the whole Microsoft team. Especially Cindy Rose the CEO of Microsoft UK for speaking to me, her dedication to inclusivity is evident. I was happy to tangibly illustrate how important the store is not just through the Xbox Adaptive Controller but through the community aspect.
The Microsoft Store has been designed from the beginning with accessibility thinking, creating an inclusive and accessible space for everybody. The main shop floor is where you get hands-on with the tech, Surface, Windows, Office, Xbox, PC gaming, HoloLens mixed-reality. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable, providing valuable tech support.
The floor has a fantastic surprise though, a McLaren Senna kitted out with awesome tech. That’s as much as I’m willing to say as I don’t want to spoil it!
The Store is the perfect educational place for schools to teach their students all about coding through games like Minecraft. Basically, Future-Proofing Education. Businesses can also use the place to upskill employees. Microsoft wants to empower everybody through the awesome power of ‘assistive’ technology.
The best part of the store for me is the inclusive gaming space. Environmental Accessibility = Empowerment. Usually, I’m not able to access gaming away from home but here it was different. I didn’t realise how necessary inclusion was to my sense of worth until I actually saw the Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC), with switches and mounts everywhere. Environmental Accessibility equals empowerment. It was quite a liberating experience to feel fully included as standard which best of all keeps the focus on gaming.
[For a bit of context, I usually play single-player games with captivating narratives, the huge RPGs or Sci-Fi epics. Surprisingly I have never jumped into the world of multiplayer especially FPSs.]
I had a blast playing Forza Horizon 4 with a fellow Trailblazer Judith Merry. The XAC and the Co-pilot feature on Xbox allowed us to share controls, my chin switch was for acceleration and hand switch for braking whilst Judith handled the steering. It brought a sense of freedom and teamwork to a single-player game, instead of worrying about the controls we could just enjoy the game together. At times we were terrible, if we saw a tree or house, we would crash into it. Was that fun? Absolutely.
On the second day, I was privileged to play Gears of War 4 with SightlessKombat the awesome gamer with no sight. I was in charge of shooting and melee, we had to find a rhythm and flow so communication was key. It was such a profound experience gaining a deeper insight into a completely different perspective. Excuse the pun but it was eye-opening to game his way, using sound cues instead of visuals. I never in a million years thought that it would be possible for a blind gamer and physically disabled gamer to play co-op. Our teamwork was pretty amazing, for the first time, I could enjoy gaming away from my home setup. I’m glad that Cindy Rose had the opportunity to witness this important moment.
It demonstrates how crucial intersectionality is, challenging our perceptions and building a bridge towards a better inclusive world. All thanks to the XAC and the Microsoft Store London.
I couldn’t leave without buying new technology, so welcome to the family Surface Headphones! Fun Fact: I might have been the first customer at the Microsoft Store.
The future of technology has just landed in London, I’d recommend that you visit it!
To read the MDUK Trailblazer version of this blog go to -> https://www.musculardystrophyuk.org/blog/diary-of-a-trailblazer-microsoft-store-pre-launch-event/