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Minnie’s Study Tour Part 5: Tech and innovation in Seattle

Minnie and Kat HolmesMinnie and Megan's fifth and final stop on their study tour was Seattle, home of Microsoft Global and some of the world’s leaders in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and inclusive product design. The connection made here has translated into long-term relationships to benefit all access citizens following their return to Aotearoa.

The first person they visited was Jeanine Spence, founder of Be Curious With Us. Jeanine is a former Microsoft designer who now operates her own inclusive design agency. They are deeply committed to customer focus by focusing on three tenets: inclusion, empathy and participation.

Her team has developed an approach for advancing inclusive design with teams and organisations through a series of workshops. Their support materials have been meticulously tested, considered and designed. Jeanine’s insights about inclusive design and innovation have been incredibly valuable to us here at Be, and she is partnering with us on the development of the Be. Lab! We are so beyond excited to benefit from her amazing knowledge in this space.

Next was Kat Holmes, founder of KATA, a platform for advancing inclusion and product development. Kat is also a former Microsoft designer who specialises in inclusive design, and now consults back to Microsoft, Facebook, Pinterest, and Google – just to name a few. She is one of the world leading practitioners in the inclusive design space and is about to publish her book "Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design".
Minnie and Megan spent the next day at Microsoft Global with Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Global Head of Accessibility. Jenny oversees a large cross disciplinary team and has responsibility for leading Microsoft’s global accessibility strategy. She also finds partner organisations around the world to partner with in specific areas including, innovation, awareness and education.

The timing was perfect, as Jenny and Microsoft hosted us of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, where they played their film, featuring Be, 'Empower every person: reimagining accessibility' that reached over 100,000 people worldwide. As a part of this launch, we were invited to host a 2-hour presentation and discussion on the work of Be. Accessible and our move from disability towards possibility, to their leading engineers and designers.

Microsoft has accessibility at the core of the vision for their product development. Minnie and Megan spent time with the people putting this vision into action, such as the Xbox Inclusive Technology team, 365 Office disability help-desk, and the Principle Manager of Inclusive Design.

This incredible day, hosted by the Global Head of Accessibility in Seattle has now translated into a wonderful partnership with Microsoft coming on board with the new Be. Lab! Watch this space, access innovators!!!