IBM's focus on accessibility encompasses our roles as a developer and manufacturer of Information Technology (IT) products, a service provider in the IT industry, a buyer of components, products and services and an employer looking to attract and retain the best talent in a competitive industry. To each of these roles, we bring a philosophy that focuses on enabling and easing information access for the largest numbers of people whose disabilities restrict direct access. Frequently, this involves the creation of special products or modification of the products we design and manufacture, but to achieve the greatest benefits requires more than just products.

IBM's earliest efforts to focus on accessibility included the use of our extensive Research and Development facilities headquartered in Yorktown Heights, New York. Many of the technologies and innovative products that IBM developed under the Special Needs programs that began in the 1970's were offshoots of our investments to understand how people use technology.

In addition to research, product development and manufacturing, IBM views accessibility in the context of how people work. Even the most accessible technologies can not fully support people with disabilities unless they are combined with sensible business processes, management and personnel policies and support programs that combine to support access to the workplace and to information. This concept is applied across IBM from web sites that support the public, to procurement approaches that enable suppliers with disabilities to compete for subcontracts to services available to IBM employees and applicants for employment that allow them to express their ability to contribute to our business.

Our investments in research have produced some surprising results. For example, technologies that enable speech recognition and voice output were pioneered in research laboratories as alternatives to keyboards and display screens but have found equal utility in enabling mobility impaired or blind users to access information with similar ease to their coworkers without disabilities. Similarly, tools that were designed to enable technicians at network control centers to monitor and repair computers around their network can be used today to enable customer personnel in accessibility support centers to operate personal computers when disabled users encounter accessibility barriers. The pursuit of accessible technology is closely intertwined with the advancement of mainstream technology with each feeding the other.

In short, IBM recognizes and strives to reflect the view that the promise of equal access can only be achieved through thoughtful deployment of policies, technologies and processes that recognize the needs and abilities of our employees, customers, suppliers and the general public. The approaches and standards that we have defined for ourselves are reflected in the products and services that we bring to market for customers around the world.

© 2008 IBM Corporation

More information