[nfbwatlk] Making technology that helps empower everyone to do more, Microsoft Jobs Blog
lauren at catlines.com
Tue Mar 15 02:37:09 UTC 2016
Good! Share Point really needs help! We use it at work and it has not been
very jaws-friendly or consistent, either one. Every time we go onto it,
something is different and confusing. So I hope this guy will really fix it.
Blessings in Jesus' name! John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as He is in
the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His
Son, purifies us from all sin. ... My digital evangelism blog is at:
w w w . ask in jesus name . org (remove the spaces).
Advice from my cats:"meow when you feel like it."
From: nfbwatlk [mailto:nfbwatlk-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of
Nightingale, Noel via nfbwatlk
Sent: Monday, March 14, 2016 11:40 AM
To: nfbwatlk at nfbnet.org
Cc: Nightingale, Noel <Noel.Nightingale at ed.gov>
Subject: [nfbwatlk] Making technology that helps empower everyone to do
more, Microsoft Jobs Blog
Making technology that helps empower everyone to do more SharePoint
developer Chris Schlechty is using his skills to help make products better
for people of all abilities Written by Tracy Ith
Chris Schlechty remembers a high school friend struggling to use his
computer the way most other kids did, typing away at a conventional keyboard
to chat with other teens. Like Schlechty, the friend had a disability that
limited the dexterity of his hands.
Schlechty showed him how to access his computer's onscreen keyboard and
operate it with a mouse, a simple revelation that made a huge difference in
the way the teen could use his PC to communicate.
Now more than ever, Schlechty thinks it's "fascinating and wonderful" that
technology can empower people of all abilities to accomplish what they want
to do - and that he's able to help advance something so important as part of
his job on Microsoft's SharePoint Experiences team.
"Technology provides that avenue to compensate in areas where something
might be more difficult," Schlechty says. "It's really cool to be able to
help to enable people."
The software development engineer, who has muscular dystrophy and uses the
onscreen keyboard and other assistive technology, and his team are
modernizing SharePoint. In his core role, Schlechty is creating new pages
that can be quickly updated and deployed to customers as part of a broad
effort to make an even better and faster experience for users.
But as his team's "accessibility driver" for engineering, he's also the
expert his colleagues turn to for guidance on how to design features that
work well for people with various disabilities, working from the outset with
other developers to build user interfaces with accessibility in mind.
"If there's an engineering question around accessibility, Chris is the first
person you go to," says Melissa Torres, who focuses on accessibility from a
program management perspective for the team. "He is very knowledgeable in
Chris Schlechty at Microsoft building 34 Schlechty works with designers to
get them up to speed on accessibility standards such as making sure features
have enough contrast for users with low vision, or ensuring document
structure works well with a screen reader, which conveys what's on the
screen audibly for people who can't see.
He also joins code reviews to provide insight and guidance on the
accessibility of new SharePoint features. In one recent instance, he noticed
that a newly designed pane was being used a different way in another part of
the software, an issue the team quickly fixed. Consistency is key for screen
readers and their users, who should be able to use a certain interface the
same way each time they encounter it.
Schlechty and Torres field customers' accessibility-related ideas and
propose ways to make SharePoint even better. Schlechty, who's been on the
team for seven years, is "an excellent resource for historical knowledge
around why we decided to build or design a feature a certain way, and how it
should work," Torres says.
But his knowledge is only part of his impact; the other part is his keen
understanding of just how important the finer details can be to people who
rely on assistive technology to accomplish various tasks. He has a knack for
articulating how specific changes can "really improve the experience,"
Schlechty and his family learned he had muscular dystrophy when he was 8.
His soccer coach, who also happened to be a pediatrician, noticed he had an
unusual gait and seemed prone to falling, and suggested that he see a
The degenerative disorder made it increasingly difficult for Schlechty to
play sports. He began using a wheelchair in fourth grade and, even in
elementary school, could see the diagnosis would factor into what he decided
to do with his future.
"I definitely knew then that physical labor jobs were out of the question,
and my dream of becoming Tom Cruise in 'Top Gun' probably wasn't very
likely," he says, grinning. "That would have been the coolest job, to be a
fighter pilot with an awesome motorcycle."
The art installations inside Building 34 incorporate hanging
succulentsInside Building 34, where Schlechty works (Photo by Meghan
O'Brien) Schlechty enjoys the campus grounds at the Microsoft Redmond
campusSchlechty on the Microsoft Redmond campus (Photo by Meghan O'Brien)
Microsoft grows hydroponic lettuce inside Building 34Inside Building 34,
where Schlechty works (Photo by Meghan O'Brien) Employees enjoy the dining
options in Building 34Chris Schlechty works in Building 34 at Microsoft
(Photo by Meghan O'Brien) Schlecty sits with a creative designer, Meghan
O'Brien.Schlechty at Cafe 34 (Photo by Steven Didis) The art installations
inside Building 34 incorporate hanging succulentsInside Building 34, where
Schlechty works (Photo by Meghan O'Brien) Schlechty enjoys the campus
grounds at the Microsoft Redmond campusSchlechty on the Microsoft Redmond
campus (Photo by Meghan O'Brien) Microsoft grows hydroponic lettuce inside
Building 34Inside Building 34, where Schlechty works (Photo by Meghan
O'Brien) Employees enjoy the dining options in Building 34Chris Schlechty
works in Building 34 at Microsoft (Photo by Meghan O'Brien) Schlecty sits
with a creative designer, Meghan O'Brien.Schlechty at Cafe 34 (Photo by
Steven Didis) The art installations inside Building 34 incorporate hanging
succulentsInside Building 34, where Schlechty works (Photo by Meghan
O'Brien) PrevNext He loved math and truly had a knack for it. He says he has
fond memories of playing "around the world" with his classmates, a "nerdy
childhood game" that has students trying to answer math problems more
quickly than their peers. He was good at it and says he's "always been very
Schlechty feels like he was always meant to work at Microsoft. In his
freshman year of high school, he attended an event the company hosted for
students with disabilities. He spent the day learning about opportunities in
the tech industry and found out about the University of Washington's DO-IT
Schlechty joined the program, which helps kids with disabilities learn about
everything from self-advocacy - such as making sure future employers
understand what accommodations they might need - to building strong résumés.
It also encourages students to pursue internships.
Schlechty says his love of math, science and computer games made Microsoft
seem like "a natural fit." He landed a summer internship there after his
senior year and a second one while he was in college. When he earned his
computer science degree, he was excited to return to Microsoft for a
Since he started in 2008, he says, he's enjoyed working with "a super nice
and ridiculously smart bunch of people" and having the chance to work on
very "front and center" features that have an impact on the many people who
Cyrus Balsara, group engineering manager for the team, says Schlechty's
expertise and sense of humor make him "an inspiration to everyone on the
team." But even though he codes with a mouse instead of a keyboard and needs
to do some things a bit differently, Balsara says, "he's just another one of
"Chris is a core member of our dev team who is versatile enough to work on
the full stack," Balsara says. "His judgement and expertise with SharePoint
is an invaluable asset to the team."
In his focus on accessibility, Schlechty "can empathize, but it's really
just his personality. He's gone deep into it, and he loves to mentor,"
Balsara says. "Chris certainly has the expertise and the ability to guide a
whole bunch of people."
Schlechty helps encourage students with disabilities to go to college and
pursue challenging careers. He's mentored teens through the U.S. Business
Leadership Network and is an advisory board member for DO-IT Scholars,
helping host its students when they visit Microsoft each year.
Schlechty says Microsoft is a great place to be an engineer because of the
people, the chance to do something meaningful and the incredible variety of
opportunities it has to offer.
"You're working on real problems or projects, and there are so many things
Microsoft is doing that if you want to specifically work on one thing, or
your interests change over time, you have opportunities to move around," he
For Schlechty, it's rewarding to help ensure people can use Microsoft
products and "be successful in what they're trying to do," he says. "If a
user is able to, say, use OneDrive for Business well, they'll be able to
effectively do their job - which is definitely important for both them and
He's also glad to work for a company that has made it a priority to help
people of all abilities achieve more.
"It's really exciting to see the push for accessibility coming from the very
top levels at Microsoft," he says. "And it's great to be a part of the
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