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JENNY LAY-FLURRIE BMus Music 1997 Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft We all tend to put artificial ceilings on what we can achieve, but I’ve learnt that you can break through them. I’m deaf as a result of measles as a kid, which has slowly caused my hearing to decline over the decades. I’ll admit, there are hard days and ‘brick wall moments’, but the most important thing is to learn from them, don’t let them stop you, advocate for what you need to be successful, and ultimately figure out (with help!) how you overcome them. “Disability is a huge demographic, affecting over one billion people worldwide. Accessibility is how we empower everyone through technology and innovation. When accessibility is done well, it breaks down barriers, is ubiquitous and easy to use, and can be life changing. At Microsoft, I work with customers, employees and charities to learn how we can build better and more inclusive products for everyone. “Disability is a strength and a huge untapped pool of talent. We continuously work on how to tap into that talent through inclusive hiring programmes. Our Autism Hiring Programme launched as an initial pilot back in 2015 and we were blown away by the response. After the pilot was announced, we received more than 700 résumés from potential candidates. By simply adjusting the interview process and allowing candidates to showcase their skills in a way that works for them, we’ve hired amazing talent that we would have otherwise missed.
32 YOUR UNIVERSITY | 2020/2021
As Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft, Jenny Lay-Flurrie champions inclusivity and accessibility in the workplace. After finishing her music degree, Jenny worked in technology before facing her ‘brick wall moment’ when her deafness meant she didn’t feel she could accept a promotion. Her boss at the time launched into action to provide accommodations. This was the start of Jenny’s journey to empowering other people with disabilities.
“Inclusive design is another big area of focus for me. It involves building accessibility into the development process and designing products with and for people with disabilities. This starts with hiring great talent with disabilities and embedding them into the process. When you include people with disabilities in the design process, the technology you create is by its very nature accessible. “I’ve been humbled by so much of what we’ve accomplished at Microsoft, but there are two standout moments for me. The first was being recognised by the Obama administration as a White House Champion of Change. I was incredibly honoured to be counted among the amazing folks doing extraordinary work to create employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities and making workplaces more accessible. The other moment was being included in Wired Magazine’s 25th Anniversary Issue as someone who will shape the tech industry over the next 25 years. To see accessibility being thought of in this way by the mainstream press was a huge moment for the tech industry – and for me personally.”