Since 2016, Chief Accessibility Officer Jenny Lay-Flurrie has led Microsoft’s efforts to create a more inclusive workplace for people with disabilities through products, services, and thought leadership. She and her team have rolled out features like the adaptive Xbox controller for gamers with limited mobility and live captioning on Microsoft Teams. Lay-Flurrie lost her hearing as an adult, and in this episode she shares her unique insights on why accessibility matters to everyone and what business leaders can do to empower their teams

Jenny Lay-Flurrie is the sixth guest for season 4 of Microsoft’s WorkLab podcast, in which hosts Elise Hu and Mary Melton have conversations with economists, technologists, and researchers who explore the data and insights into why and how work is changing.

Three big takeaways from the conversation: 

  1. There is a bias from business leaders to believe that they don’t work with any disabled people. “You absolutely do,” Lay-Flurrie says. “It’s whether or not they actually feel safe enough to identify themselves as such.” Seven years ago when she hired her team, 50 percent of members disclosed that they had a disability during the interview process. A year later, that number was 95 percent.

  2. Be mindful of the “ROI trap,” as Lay-Flurrie puts it, referring to a deprioritization of an accessible feature based on the belief that it only serves the disability population. For example, the audiobooks that many people enjoy today were originally designed for the blind.

  3. Lay-Flurrie believes that AI has enormous potential to create a more accessible world, but “we have to make sure that we’re doing it in a grounded way, and make sure that the data we lean on is disability representative.” Right now we’re going through a hot and fast innovation curve, and we’re still learning every day.

WorkLab is a place for experts to share their insights and opinions. As students of the future of work, Microsoft values inputs from a diverse set of voices. That said, the opinions and findings of the experts we interview are their own and do not reflect Microsoft’s own research or opinions.  

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Here’s a transcript of the episode 6 conversation.

MARY MELTON: This is WorkLab , the podcast from Microsoft. I’m your host, Mary Melton. On WorkLab , we hear from leading thinkers on the future of work. Economists, technologists, researchers—they all share surprising data and explore the trends transforming the way we work. 

JENNY LAY-FLURRIE: I see enormous potential with AI, but we also have to make sure that we’re doing it in a grounded way, making sure that the data that we lean on is disability representative so that you can learn from it.