The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) presented its 2004 Access Awards on March 5 in Washington, DC. The ceremony was held in conjunction with AFB's annual conference, the Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute.
IBM is the only corporation to be honored with one of the three 2004 Access Awards. The other two were awarded to individuals. The AFB Access Award recognizes IBM for its corporate philosophy of promoting accessibility throughout the company and its products and services. IBM recruits, hires and accommodates people with disabilities; develops products that are accessible; and seeks to integrate accessibility requirements from the outset of product design.
Frances West, Worldwide Director of IBM Accessibility Center, accepted the award on behalf of IBM and spoke at the awards ceremony. In her acceptance speech, West alluded to the long history of commitment to those with disabilities at IBM and the evolution toward a holistic approach to accessibility. This approach, West explained, "starts but does not end with regulations and standards compliance, and ultimately will reach the goal of enriching the total of experience of disabled individuals."
IBM founded the Accessibility Center in 2000, with locations in seven countries. The mission of the Accessibility Center includes focusing on accessibility within IBM, promoting accessibility in the marketplace and providing offerings that enable access to IT for more people. Accessibility Center works throughout IBM to help business units incorporate accessibility into their offerings.
AFB, the nonprofit organization to which Helen Keller devoted her life, established the Access Awards in 1991 to honor individuals, corporations and organizations who are eliminating or substantially reducing the inequities faced by people who are blind or visually impaired.
"We at AFB are honored to publicly recognize those who have enhanced the lives and improved the independence of people who are blind or visually impaired," said AFB president and CEO Carl R. Augusto. "This year's honorees have worked to ensure that technologies developed today include critical accessibility features—from traffic signals to cell phones to computer software."
(from right to left) Carl R. Augusto, president & CEO, American Foundation for the Blind, and Frances West, director of the Worldwide Accessibility Center, The IBM Corporation.