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Microsoft book chronicles stories behind 'Ability Hacks' for people with disabilities

Microsoft this week is embarking on its latest One Week Hackathon, an annual event that began in 2014 and pulls together employees from around the company to work on their passion projects. But as this year's event kicks off, Microsoft is looking to the past at two special projects (opens in new tab) from previous hackathons that eventually resulted in the launch of innovative solutions for people with disabilities: EyeGaze and Learning Tools.

Microsoft explores both projects in a new book, called "The Ability Hacks," which is available now for free (opens in new tab).

For some background, EyeGaze was a project from the 2014 hackathon that initially started after NFL player Steve Gleason, who has ALS, challenged Microsoft employees to come up with a solution that would let him control his wheelchair with his eyes. The team eventually succeeded in building the tech, which inspired Microsoft's Research NExT Enable team and, eventually, the launch of Eye Control for Windows 10.

Learning Tools, which was the winner of the 2015 competition, was built to help students with dyslexia learn to read. While initially focused on dyslexia, Microsoft says the Learning Tools team has expanded the solution to help people with dysgraphia, ADHD, and English language learners. Following its success at the 2015 hackathon, Learning Tools has gone on to be built into apps ranging from Office to Microsoft Edge, expanding to 13 million active users in more than 40 languages.

"The Ability Hacks" chronicles both stories in detail, and is available now for free, either as a PDF (opens in new tab) or EPUB{.nofollow}.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the Editor in Chief for Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl. Got a hot tip? Send it to daniel.thorp-lancaster@futurenet.com.

1 Comment
  • A remarkable book. At least browse it and be sure to take note of the catalog of accessibility features near the end. Solftware with heart.