Why is accessibility so important to the United States government?
In response to the growing movement for inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce, an aging workforce who may exhibit similar characteristics as people with disabilities — and the need for disabled citizens to communicate with the federal agencies — the United States government recognized the need for information technology legislation. In 1998, the U.S. Congress amended Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requiring federal agencies to purchase electronic and information technology that is accessible to people with disabilities. Enforcement of this law began in June of 2001.
Is accessibility a U.S. only concern?
No. Accessibility is top of mind worldwide. We are seeing similar IT-related public sector accessibility legislation from countries all over the world. I believe it will begin to permeate into the private sector as well.
How is IBM supporting accessible government?
IBM has put myriad resources behind this. Even before Section 508 was developed, IBM issued a corporate instruction calling for the design of features, functions and controls into its products to support people with disabilities. In 2001, an Accessibility Project Office was established to drive IBM compliance with Section 508 and other worldwide regulations and provide support to IBM sales teams responding to client bids concerning accessibility.
Additionally, IBM includes information about accessibility features and support for Section 508 standards in product announcement materials and is working on publishing Section 508 voluntary product accessibility template (VPAT) information for IBM products on the Web.
What else is IBM doing to help governments become more accessible?
Movement of information online is fueling the e-government initiative. However, this initiative cannot leave out a significant portion of the population. So agencies are adopting e-government models that integrate accessibility with their business initiatives.
With its array of services, IBM can address end-to-end accessibility requirements facing government organizations. Services that range from helping agencies define an accessible IT strategy to building a strategic framework and architecture. Consultants can assess existing Web sites to see if they are accessible, fix them if they aren't or design new sites. Most importantly, IBM has the breadth of skills and business insight to integrate accessibility into the client's business processes to help improve customer service and satisfaction, employee development and retention and operational efficiency.