LOS ANGELES - 19 Mar 2003: In a bold step to make computing more accessible to all people -- regardless of ability or disability -- IBM is showcasing a number of innovative technologies, products and services at California State University Northridge's (CSUN) 18th Annual "Technology and Persons with Disabilities" Conference, from March 19-22, in Los Angeles. Accessible technology includes solutions that provide access to information technology for all people, including those who are aging, blind, deaf or have cognitive or mobility impairments.
IBM's exhibit and showcase at CSUN include displays and demonstrations of current accessibility services such as Web Redesign, Web Hosting and Web Remediation, that help make sites compliant under either legislative or regulatory guidelines. Accessibility products and technologies being showcased include IBM's Home Page Reader, which uses text-to-speech technology to "read" web pages out loud for the blind, Crunchy's PageScreamer, which tests a site for accessibility compliance, and IBM's Knowledge Producer Learning Management System, which makes customer e-learning courseware accessible.
IBM will also showcase research technologies that allow more people to access information, including: linguistic analysis software to assist people with visual, mobility or cognitive disabilities, display technologies that offer specialized work settings to aid people with all types of disabilities, and technologies that optimize keyboard hand position, set accessibility parameters, adjust for hand tremor movements and translate head movements to direct on screen cursor movements.
And for a glimpse of computing in the future, IBM will also show how technology can take ease-of-use to a whole new level. One example is an 'intelligent' vending machine that responds to voice commands, debits a smart card rather than accepting coins or bills, and provides users with nutritional information for the foods and drinks it dispenses. A demonstration of BlueSpace, an interactive and personalized office of the future, developed by IBM and Steelcase Inc., will be available to illustrate how workspaces can be customized to individual users' needs. This project combines IBM's Pervasive Computing expertise with Steelcase's workplace knowledge to create a new office environment that integrates the physical workspace with advanced computer, sensor, display and wireless technologies.
Enriching the benefits and availability of computing and information resources is part of IBM's larger vision of 'On Demand' computing, which is delivered to customers when, where and how they need it. Nicholas M. Donofrio, IBM senior vice president, Technology and Manufacturing, says, "IBM is committed to making technology even more natural to use by embedding accessibility features into our solutions that can easily be activated to support employees, customers or partners with either temporary or chronic disabilities." He sees accessible technology as a real competitive advantage to government and private sector employers, stressing, "Accessible technology provides companies, government and organizations with the ability to better hire, train and retain employees; to provide increased customer satisfaction; and to increase efficiency, effectiveness and productivity of all employees."
IBM's showcase at CSUN illustrates a world where anyone can access technology at anytime from anywhere, regardless of disability. Shon Saliga, director, IBM Worldwide Accessibility Center, Austin, Texas, says, "IBM has a long history of commitment to people with disabilities and accessibility stemming back to 1914 when the company hired its first disabled employee. At CSUN, we will showcase the innovative products and services that IBM and its partners offer to provide information technology access to users worldwide."
Accessibility and the Marketplace
The United Nations estimates that there are as many as one billion people with disabilities around the world, and notes that seven percent of the worldwide population is currently over 65 years of age. As the baby boomer population ages and begins to deal with disabilities and impairments, IT users will require technology products that are accessible and more user-friendly.
The U.S. Federal government is already addressing accessibility under Section 508 of the 1998 Rehabilitation Act, which requires all federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to persons with disabilities. The impact of this legislation will grow as governments around the world implement similar regulations and policies. Accessible technologies and features are quickly evolving from just "special needs" considerations to mainstream use as more users demand natural, portable and hands-free use of information technology.
"Based upon our knowledge of both the public and private sectors, IBM believes that accessibility will become a purchasing consideration affecting billions of dollars of mainstream IT spending, driven not simply by the possibility of regulation, but also by the business value that accrues from making information technology more accessible to all users, including employees, customers and partners," says Ralph Martino, vice president of strategy and marketing for IBM Global Services.
Bud Rizer, Director of the Center on Disabilities at California State University Northridge, applauds IBM's significant contribution to the development of accessible technology. He says, "IBM has been involved with CSUN for many years, but this year IBM's technology vision is raising the bar for what is possible."
About IBM's Accessibility Center
The Accessibility Center is part of IBM's Research organization. As the world's largest information technology research organization, more than 3,000 scientists and engineers at eight labs in six countries are engaged in developing innovative marketplace technologies. IBM has produced more research breakthroughs than any other company in the IT industry. For more information on IBM's Accessibility Center, visit http://www.ibm.com/able.
Crunchy Technologies develops accessible-packaged software products and custom applications for business and government clients. Crunchy manufactures the PageScreamer and WinScreamer product suites, leading tools for making Web content and Desktop software accessible to users with disabilities and compliant with Section 508 of the 1998 Rehabilitation Act. Crunchy's professional-services team architects and builds accessible e-business and e-government applications and systems. Crunchy's expertise includes Internet, intranet, extranet and wireless application development, IT infrastructure design and implementation, security implementations and accessible web content, web application and product software development. For more information, please visit http://www.crunchy.com.
About Steelcase Inc.
Steelcase Inc., a Fortune 500 company, helps individuals and organizations around the world to work more effectively by providing integrated architecture, furniture and technology solutions for the workplace. Founded in 1912, this global company has led the office furniture industry in sales every year since 1974. Its product portfolio includes furniture systems, seating, lighting, storage, full-height walls, raised floors, modular cabling, electronic whiteboards, and related products and services. Fiscal 2002 revenue was approximately $3.1 billion. Steelcase Inc. and its subsidiaries have more than 800 local dealer locations and approximately 17,000 employees worldwide. The company's Class A Common Stock trades on the NYSE under the symbol SCS. For more information, visit www.steelcase.com.
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