At the most recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Microsoft showcased their commitment to influencing technology development with the goal of ensuring global independent living and inclusion. To reach this corporate goal, the company’s is leaning in to their focus on artificial intelligence research and machine learning solutions by offering funding to individuals and organizations at the forefront of artificial intelligence (AI) learning.

The company funds projects related to four main areas: Education, Employment, Community and Home. Microsoft is committed to supporting projects using AI to empower people living with disabilities. They focus on “individuals or teams who are not only passionate about making the world more inclusive, but also firmly rooted in the communities they intend to benefit.” The overarching goal of the grants program is “to invest in ideas that are developed by or with people with disabilities.”

As an example, Microsoft has recently funded several organizations whose work during the pandemic centered on extending AI in the classroom. Students with unmet classroom accommodations were frequently excluded from regular activities, sometimes resulting in students with disabilities having no access to paths to advanced degrees and careers. In working with organizations across the globe, Microsoft and AI are advancing tools for transcription, translation, and language understanding capabilities, opening doors to those with disabilities.

Microsoft’s Home Funding focus is aligned with the World Health Organization and The United Nation’s Global Forum. The Home-centered projects range from transportation, to voice-powered interfaces, to transforming many tools that otherwise would not consider the disability experience.  By investing in individuals and organizations who are on the forefront of developing new AI applications for assistive tech, the company hopes to support better use of inclusive data and affordable technology.

The grants offered by Microsoft are detailed on their website, along with specific application instructions and timelines.  For more information on the program and how to apply for an AI for Accessibility grant, visit the Microsoft website.

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