American Sign Language assistance is now available from the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk. The ability to communicate in their primary language allows deaf and hard of hearing individuals to communicate with more accuracy and ease. Specifically, individuals can receive assistance related to Microsoft products, assistive technologies, and their device’s accessibility settings. It is available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is currently only available in the United States, though that could be expanded in the feature.
In a Microsoft blog post explaining the new service, they quote Melissa “echo” Grenlee who states “Getting our technical questions answered in our primary language is an accessibility feature (that) will change how the Deaf community progresses… It evens the playing field in a lot of ways. It allows our personal and work lives to run more efficiently so we can spend more energy on more important things.” Microsoft's video below explains how ASL support helps customers receive better assistance and answers to questions.
Interpreting ASL becomes more complicated when technical words are involved. While there are interpreting services, specific computer related phrases and technical support are more complicated. Though ASL is used in the United States, signs are not direct translations from syllables making up English words. A basic example is that the sign for “password” is not the signs for “pass” and “word” put together. Having dedicated ASL support from Microsoft allows for clear and concise communication.
While ASL assistance is available only in the United States during those hours, The Microsoft Disability Answer Desk is available in 11 countries and is open 24/7.