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IBM to Help Colleges Make Software More Accessible for Disabled and Aged

U.S. Department of Education Applauds Effort; Congratulates IBM Programming Contest Winners

NORTHRIDGE, CA - 23 Mar 2007: IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it will work with academia to build a worldwide repository of materials that will enable student developers to make software more accessible to those with disabilities and the aging population. This initiative builds on IBM's ongoing efforts to promote universal access of software applications, web sites and documents.

The University of Illinois, California State University at Long Beach, Georgia Tech, University of Toronto and the Rochester Institute of Technology are some of the universities who are already working with IBM to build a repository of repeatable learning materials to incorporate into everyday computer programming classes.

The purpose of the Accessibility Common Courseware Exchange for Software Studies (ACCESS) repository will be for professors around the world to collect, store and share information around accessibility technologies. Accessibility software, courseware, teaching, training tools and books will be available to the academic community at no-charge. Universities around the world will have an opportunity to contribute turnkey lessons, tools and courseware to this open repository. The ACCESS repository will be hosted and supported by the IBM Academic Initiative and can be found on the Web at: http://www-304.ibm.com/jct09002c/us/en/university/scholars/skills/accessibility/index.html

The University of Illinois recently added an online course about universal Web site design to the repository. The lessons educate web developers and adminstrators about the disability access issues faced by people with disabilities and instruct how to design Web resources to improve accessibility for people with disabilities.

Jon Gunderson, Director of Information Technology Accessibility at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign added that "This repository will be an invaluable aid to professors in any institution of higher education teaching technology accessibility. And success of this worldwide repository is dependent on collaboration and participation of professors around the world."

Between 750 million and 1 billion of the world's 6 billion people have a speech, vision, mobility, hearing or cognitive disability, according to the World Health Organization. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one-quarter of the U.S. population will reach 55 by 2008, and about half will experience a disability after age 65.

A recent survey commissioned by IBM of more than 200 two- and four-year U.S. universities found that the majority of faculty respondents do not teach accessibility in the classroom, due to a lack of familiarity with the topic and a shortage of learning materials to incorporate into existing classes. IBM wants to improve the skills for making software more accessible

"To create a truly inclusive society, all forms of information technology need to be more accessible," said Dr. Bonnie Jones of the U.S. Department of Education. "If we can't do this, people with disabilities land on the wrong side of the 'digital divide.' We have to capture the intelligence and imagination of our next generation of IT developers now. The work IBM is doing with universities is an innovative way to reach out to student developers early, and to equip them with the necessary accessibility skills."

As a precursor to this initiative, IBM posted material for computer science classes this past fall, and launched a contest where students competed to provide software code that would make documents more accessible. IBM and the U.S. Department of Education are today congratulating the winners of that contest, in which nearly 400 students from 111 universities in Canada, China, Japan and the U.S. participated.

At the 2007 Technology & Persons with Disabilities Conference at the California State University at Northridge, the largest forum of its kind, IBM and the U.S. Department of Education congratulated Daniel Millington, who attends Capitol College, Chase Pritchett, who attends the University of Oklahoma, and Yang Liu, who attends Tsinghua University in China. The students wrote computer code that checks word processing documents that adhere to the OpenDocument Format (ODF), to determine whether they are accessible. To propagate the technology, the students contributed their code to the open source community (sourceforge.org).

Contact(s) information

Pasha Ray Dahncke
IBM Academic Innovation Initiatives; Technology & Intellectual Property
Office: 917-472-3427
Cell: 646-342-4013
bipasha@us.ibm.com

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