British Columbia

 Microsoft deal means more access for all Canadian public servants with disabilities, minister says

The federal government has renewed a contract with Microsoft Canada that includes more digital communication tools for public servants with disabilities.

B.C. minister of accessibility says all public servants will have access to game-changing technology

A Microsoft software engineer demonstrates how to use the Seeing AI app, which allows users to take a photo of an object whose description is then read aloud. Microsoft launched a $25 million initiative to use artificial intelligence to build better technology for people with disabilities. (The Associated Press / Elaine Thompson)

The federal government has renewed a contract with Microsoft Canada that includes more digital communication tools for public servants with disabilities.

Minister of Accessibility Carla Qualtrough made the announcement at Microsoft's offices in Vancouver, saying the modern tools will allow for more information sharing, productivity and collaboration.

Qualtrough, who is legally blind, says the seven-year agreement is part of the government's procurement of software and services for all public servants and that about five per cent of the workforce of 410,000 people has a disability.

The inclusive design of the $940-million deal includes features such as artificial intelligence technology that allows an image on a screen to be described to someone who can't see and provide transcription for dozens of languages.

Qualtrough says all public servants will now have access to Office 365 and the agreement will enable software to run in data centres or in the cloud.

She says all Canadians will benefit as a result of a strong platform for the delivery of programs and services.

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