Even today, computers can be tricky to use. It’s easy to begin typing with your fingers planted a single key off, so your words come out like gobbledygook. Or you try shoving a Lightning plug into a port, only to realize, oops, it’s a USB-C.
For people with disabilities, these moments are only made worse as most technology is built assuming the user is able-bodied. Microsoft is acknowledging that fact with its newly announced product, the Surface Adaptive Kit. It’s a series of sticky labels that can make Microsoft’s Surface computers (or really, any laptop) easier for people with disabilities to use, whether they have vision impairment or mobility problems. Heck, you might want the kit even if you have no disability at all.
Microsoft designed the kit alongside people with disabilities, much as it has done with previous efforts with the Xbox Adaptive Controller. In recent years, Microsoft has distinguished itself as a leader in inclusive design, ensuring its products aren’t just designed to work for a some archetypal typical user, but also for underserved users—by including those users in the design process. Inclusive design has been slowly embraced by other companies in the industry, from Logitech to Adobe.
The kit is due out later this year for an unannounced price, and it features two types of stick-on openers, made for pulling open a screen or kickstand more easily. It has keycap labels, which add bumps to double check buttons simply by feel (an applicator helps line these tiny stickers up for installation). And a series of long, watchband-like labels allow you to grab cords with a tactile pattern that you can match up with an identical label placed by a port. (If you have clear vision, you don’t even need the bumps for the job, since these stickers are color-coded, too.) Microsoft claims that even the packaging itself has been designed to be easy to open, so that someone who needs this kit should be able to access it themselves.
Yes, that’s a lot of effort put into what’s essentially a pile of stickers. At the same time, isn’t it astounding that a cleverly designed pile of stickers can make a $1,000 piece of technology that much easier to use?