Imagine a world where accessibility meets
information technology innovation. Imagine an IT world where
disability is not considered an employment liability. Imagine
a technological world so advanced that it reduces the numbers
of people becoming disabled because
they have instant access to information that prevents illnesses
and either short-or-long term disability.
Imagine IT creating a world without communications
barriers for everyone. Imagine hearing
IBM and instantly thinking global accessibility.The
world of IT improving the lives of everyone is exploding
as IBM initiates a dynamic, doggedly determined global strategy
of providing accessibility solutions
by ensuring all of its IT software and hardware products
are accessible to persons with disabilities.
And simultaneously providing global accessibility
Web accessibility is defined as providing
access to web people with disabilities. The larger scope
of accessibility includes benefits to people
What are the motivations behind IBM’s
global accessibility goal? It’s sound business policy
and Section 508 of the 1998 Rehabilitation
The two goals may seem contradictory, but
in IBM’s mind they are synonymous with global
business-to-business customer inclusiveness and services.
on our knowledge of both the public and private sectors,
IBM believes that accessibility
will become a purchasing consideration affecting billions
of dollars of mainstream IT spending,
driven not simply by the possibility of regulation, but
also by the business value that accrues
by making information technology more accessible to all
users, including employees, customers
and partners,” says Ralph Martino, vice president
of strategy and marketing services, IBM
The altruistic policy is echoed by IBM’s Shon Saliga,
director, IBM Worldwide Accessibility
Center, Austin, TX, when he says, “We are determined
to build a world without communications
barriers for everyone because it is sound business policy.”
Accessibility Center is part of IBM’s research organization.
For information on the center visit http://www-3.ibm.com/able/.
Worldwide accessibility is a laudable goal. Other companies
have had them,but they have evaporated quickly because they
lack the hard-driven commitment from the chief executive
officer. The question begging to be asked is: Does this
commitment have a priority
from IBM’s CEO Sam Palmisano?
Byrne, Business Director, Worldwide Accessibility Center,
emphatically says, “The global
commitment for worldwide accessibility comes directly from
IBM’s Chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano.”
Palmisano’s leadership, worldwide accessibility is
a mainstream business strategy, with two components. The
first is internal.
There is Corporate Instruction 162 that directs the corporation
to ensure that all new technology
meet a set of accessibility standards for employees.
for the second component, to ensure technology reaches the
marketplace with equal impact, Palmisano directed the Worldwide
Accessibility Center to work with IBM’s various units
to incorporate accessibility into their business solutions.
and The Marketplace
support an accessibility business strategy? The numbers
General Tomas R. Lagerwall, Rehabilitation International,
NYC estimates “there are 600 million people with disabilities
Rehabilitation International is a worldwide network of people
with disabilities, service providers and government agencies
to improve the quality of life for disabled people and their
Seven percent of the world’s population is older than
65-years-old. As the baby boomers
age and deal with accessibility, information technology
requires accessible and more user-friendly products.
as a result of Section 508 of the 1998 Rehabilitation Act,
the IT market within the federal government is about $45
IBM wants to capture this market and the spiraling effect
508 is having in the states and foreign countries.
Kenny, project director, Collaborative Center for Assistive
Technology & Training, Northampton, MA, says, “States
are starting to clamor for 508 implementation and will soon
do more with 508 compliance.”
508 states that as of June 21, 2001federal agencies' electronic
and information technology is accessible to people with
disabilities. The law also mandates that federal web sites
are accessible. However, if providing accessibility is an
undue financial burden to the vendor, the vendor does not
have to comply. Still, the drawback to non-compliance could
mean the vendor will not sell equipment and services to
the federal government.
big is the federal market for employees for people with
disabilities? The Office of Personnel Management says more
that as of September
2000, about 120,525 people with disabilities work for the
federal government. Roughly 6% of the federal workforce
has a disability.
Since the federal
government has a recruitment program to employ more people
with disabilities accessibility is even more important.
No one knows
how many employees with disabilities work for the 50 states
and thousands of local governments.
impact of Section 508 will grow as state governments and
governments around the world
implement similar regulations and policies,” says
no one can tell the number of people with disabilities working
in the private sector, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates
about 11-million adults with disabilities of working age
are unemployed. Advocates say that access to technology
can provide jobs to most of these
employment advantage to accessibility is it enhances productivity
throughout an able-bodied employee’s career and the
of an employee with a disability, and increased productivity
means increased revenues in the private sector.
advanced technology, for example, provides access to web
information. Web Adaptation technology allows users to personalize
Web features to meet their needs. These features include
adjusting distracting backgrounds for clear presentation
of information; changing font size and the type of font,
adjusting spacing between letters, alternating color contrasts
and selecting images on the page to magnify and enhance.
A proud Saliga says that as a major part of our accessibility
goal, “we are ensuring
that the infrastructures of Unix, Linux and Lotus support
IBM’s accessibility efforts.
homogenization of our access to web, whereby the World Wide
Web becomes your web,
also includes our Easy Web technology.”
Web technology provides a navigation bar with adjustable
features for people who can benefit from a simple clear
interface that displays the basis function of web navigation.
The browser speaks text aloud displaying it in large font
in a display panel. For the navigation
bar, Easy Web allows users to customize fonts and color
contrasts for optimal presentation
of information on the screen.
What other products
does IBM have in its arsenal?
March appearance at the California State University Northridge’s
18th Annual Technology for Persons with Disabilities, IBM
showcased research technologies allowing people to access
information in different ways, including: linguistic analysis
software to assist people with either visual, mobility or
cognitive disabilities. Also shown were products that optimize
keyboard hand position, set accessibility parameters and
adjust for hand tremor movements, and translate head movements
to direct on screen cursor movements.
that tens of millions of people in the workplace are either
dyslexic, learning disabled or have
other cognitive disabilities, IBM developed technologies
to interpret language and make it easier to learn and to
work tools go along with IBM’s worldwide accessibility
effort because they reduce hurdles
to writing, reading and comprehension. They help employees
perform better in their jobs with
increased confidence in their communication.
the benefits and availability of computing and information
resources is part of IBM’s larger vision of “On
which is delivered to customers when, where and how they
M. Donofrio, IBM senior vice president, Technology and Manufacturing,
says, “IBM is committed to making technology even
more natural to use by embedding accessibility features
into our solutions that can easily be activated to support
employees, customers or partners with either temporary or
chronic disabilities.” He sees accessible technology
as a real competitive advantage to government and private
sector employers, stressing, “Accessible technology
provides companies, government and organizations with the
ability to better hire, train
and retain employees; to provide increased customer satisfaction;
and to increase efficiency, effectiveness and productivity
of all employees.”
technologies and features are quickly evolving from special
needs to mainstream
usage as more users demand natural, portable and hands-free
usage of IT.
achieve worldwide dominance, IBM launched an ambitious,
major international marketing business-to-business campaign.
to people at IBM, one senses there is an excitement over
the company’s commitment to global accessibility.
IBM, employees, as they develop new products or sell existing
ones, are drilled to “think” accessibility.
Seminars are held with such divisions as the Pervasive Computing
Division to collaborate
on incorporating accessibility solutions into devices to
report cards listing products that are and aren’t
accessible are issued quarterly throughout
IBM. Divisions, whose products are not accessible, are directed
to make them.
is an unshakable belief that IBM can make worldwide accessibility
a reality. Being realists,
IBM knows worldwide accessibility will not happen quickly.
Still its efforts can have
the following effects:
• Motivate other computer companies to expand their
• Hasten worldwide business-to-business accessibility
• Strengthen the world’s economy as more people
with disabilities are employed.
• IBM becomes the dominant accessibility company worldwide.
• Spur federal agencies to implement Section 508.