Microsoft celebrates Global Accessibility Awareness Day with ChatGPT

Group photograph of people attending the Global Accessibility Awareness Day
(Image credit: Jenny Lay-Flurrie | Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft celebrated the 12th annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day with a blog post highlighting recent accessibility-related partnerships.
  • BeMyEyes, a mobile app that helps connect users with vision impairments to sighted assistants for visual interpretations, is expanding with OpenAI and Microsoft.
  • Virtual Volunteer can generate AI-powered descriptions of objects and text in the world without needing a human assistant.

Microsoft celebrated Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) for its 12th year, championing innovative efforts, including generative AI tools powered by ChatGPT-4. Chief Accessibility Officer Jenny Lay-Flurrie covered their first-hand experiences in a blog post, sharing announcements of a brand-new pilot program to assist those with low vision and other degrees of blindness.

Expanding on its existing partnership with BeMyEyes, Microsoft is bringing AI advancements to the service that can help reduce to need for sighted assistants offering their services via video calls. Previously, users with sight restrictions could receive help perceiving items and other general surroundings from a human, with fantastic feedback resulting in an average 4.5 out of 5 rating for customer satisfaction.

..introducing Virtual Volunteer that can provide 500 million of its users with detailed AI-generated descriptions of the world without needing a sighted person.

Jenny Lay-Flurrie

One of four leading brands joining the Virtual Volunteer Corporate Beta Test, Microsoft continues its philanthropic efforts by harnessing the almost limitless potential of generative AI like ChatGPT to improve customer service via the Disability Answer Desk. Users will be able to feed images to a dedicated app and receive interpretations of what can be seen, including object descriptions alongside deciphered text.

Hilton, Microsoft, P&G, Sony, and The National Federation of the Blind join the Virtual Volunteer beta test. (Image credit: Be My Eyes)

Alongside the expansion into customer service accessibility with AI, Microsoft highlighted its efforts to improve accessibility in Xbox and tools for Microsoft 365 apps like accessibility checking built into Office. Living with a disabled partner means these advancements are always beneficial to our home, and seeing the borderline limitless potential of OpenAI's partnership with Microsoft applied to accessibility is particularly exciting.

Check out Jenny Lay-Flurrie's full blog post for helpful links to specific accessibility tools offered around Microsoft's ecosystem. BeMyEyes has been a rousing success so far and promises to become an even more empowering tool for those with sight restrictions.

Ben Wilson
Channel Editor

Ben is the channel editor for all things tech-related at Windows Central. That includes PCs, the components inside, and any accessory you can connect to a Windows desktop or Xbox console. Not restricted to one platform, he also has a keen interest in Valve's Steam Deck handheld and the Linux-based operating system inside. Fueling this career with coffee since 2021, you can usually find him behind one screen or another. Find him on Mastodon to ask questions or share opinions.