Calling Australian Partners to harness AI and empower people with disability to achieve their full potential


Mark Leigh
One Commercial Partner Lead
Microsoft Australia



This year’s theme for International Day of People with Disability is ‘Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality’.

Microsoft’s mission is to empower all Australians to achieve more and we know that our partners stand beside us in this mission. As an ecosystem we’re all about accessibility and inclusion, making sure that everyone benefits from technology and especially the advances around artificial intelligence and cognitive services that have a truly transforming capability.

Today 18 per cent of Australians live with disability – that’s just over four million children and adults. We believe that with the support of technology everyone can be empowered to achieve their very best, to establish a greater degree of independence and to live rich fulfilled lives.

This is where you come in.

We are asking our Australian partners to work with us and unlock the world of opportunity that comes from applying AI to accessibility. The Microsoft Australia AI for Accessibility Challenge has been designed to accelerate the development of accessible and intelligent AI solutions in the following areas:

  • Employment: How can we positively impact the employment rate for people with disabilities through more intelligent technology?
  • Daily life: How can we increase access to technology for people with disabilities while also decreasing the cost of such technology?
  • Communication & Connection: How can AI help improve the speed, accuracy, and convenience of communication for people with disabilities?

Let’s just consider that first area for a moment. Government statistics show that many fewer people with disability participate in the labour force (53.4 per cent), compared to people without disability (83.2per cent). Just imagine the impact that getting people to work would have – the rise in their self-esteem, the benefits to their families – and of course there are economic benefits for the nation as a whole.

The impact of technology on daily life for people with disability is profound. We recently launched our Soundscape app in Australia which uses 3D sound and smartphones to help blind and vision impaired people independently navigate the world around them.

The opportunities for innovation and empowerment using technology and AI are limitless – and we know that our partner community is going to rise to the challenge.

So please visit the AI for Accessibility Challenge page on the Partner Website  and register for the Challenge. Gather a team together and create an inspiring idea. This is your chance to create a new solution that will make a difference for the four million Australians with a disability today – to create a better tomorrow.

You can learn more through the Accessibility Toolkit on the Partner Website which also features Accessibility 101 training that you can share with your team. And share your stories and ideas with one another too - because together we can make a real and important difference.

The winning ideas will receive coaching to help with an application for an AI for Accessibility Grant to help turn their idea into reality. We will also assign a Microsoft Business and Technical Mentor to the winning teams to work with you through the building process.

Let’s work together to make things better, and to empower everyone to be their best selves.