IBM's long-standing commitment to people with disabilities began in 1914 when IBM hired its first disabled employee, 76 years before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In the 1940s significant hiring and training programs for people with disabilities were undertaken to replace workers inducted into the military for World War II. Accommodations were provided to them and to returning disabled veterans, three decades before the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
In addition, IBM has been committed to bringing technology to people with disabilities. In 1975, IBM developed the Model 1403 Braille printer. In 1980, IBM developed a talking typewriter for people who were blind, and this was followed by a talking display terminal in 1981. As computers migrated to graphical user interfaces in the 1980's, IBM developed one of the first screen readers to work with that new technology. Since 1985, the Special Needs Systems group has developed technologies that assist people with disabilities. They recently developed the Home Page Reader tool, a self-voicing Web browser.
In 1999, IBM's Board of Directors adopted a worldwide standard to bring accessibility to our roles as employer, manufacturer and service provider. This standard directs all IBM operating organizations and subsidiaries to support disabled employees, customers and members of the public with appropriate tools that enhance their ability to participate in a world where access to information is increasingly vital to daily life.
IBM's assessment of products for Section 508 compliance
The IBM Board of Directors codified our corporate standards for product accessibility with the adoption of Corporate Instruction 162 in the first week of January, 1999. This standard contained a mandate for the assessment of accessibility characteristics of all new products. These assessments are conducted using a series of checklists that predate, but have evolved to mirror, the Section 508 standards. These standards can be found on the IBM Web site under the heading Checklists & techniques at:
IBM developers begin to focus on accessibility in the initial design stages and conduct assessments at key checkpoints in the development process concluding with the product announcement. The results of these assessments include a definition of the accessibility features in our products. As more and more of our actively marketed products pass through these reviews, we expect our announcement letter data base to be a valuable source of information on the accessibility features of our products. Over 200 letters already contain this information. They can be accessed at:
Looking ahead for Section 508
IBM is prepared to support the needs of our customers today with information on Section 508 compliance and a range of related issues that promote the highest levels of access for the largest number of Federal employees and the public. We expect to evolve as Federal needs evolve and to adjust our processes as we, and our Federal buyers, gain experience.
IBM will support the government's efforts to enhance the effectiveness, clarity and ease of implementation of Section 508 through our membership in a variety of industry associations. We will also deliver compliance status and other useful information to our customers through this Web site and through others such as GSA's Buy Accessible. In all cases, our response will be tied to our ability to deliver clear, accurate, dependable information to Federal agencies allowing them to promote access by the growing number of people who count on Federal information sources in their work and in their lives.
© 2008 IBM Corporation