This past August, I started my position as UX designer at IBM Accessibility. I was new to the team, and relatively new to the world of inclusive design—but only from a designer’s perspective. Born profoundly deaf, I brought with me a lifetime of experiences with accessibility (or lack thereof, in many cases).

My second week on the job, our team met face to face (many of us work remotely in different cities). I was thrilled to meet my new colleagues, among whom was Brent Shiver, a talented software engineer who also happens to be deaf.

Alexandra’s CART services in action – In a video call between Brent and Alexandra,  Alexandra has a view of Brent’s interpreter who speaks on behalf of Brent. Alexandra follows along by reading the live caption done by a CART writer which is placed beneath the video.

Brent uses American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate, whereas I am an oral communicator, relying on digital hearing through Cochlear Implants. These differences worried me: there is a huge rift in the D/deaf world between the Deaf (people who sign) and the deaf/Hard of Hearing (people who do not). Fortunately, my fears were assuaged immediately.

Brent and I are equally passionate about fighting for the same thing: access. As Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) who are striving to be leaders in our respective and joint communities.  We understand that no matter where you come from, or how you move through the world, everyone deserves to be included.

Our first-hand knowledge of what it is like to be PwDs is an asset to our team for many reasons. Brent and I are able to collaborate on making sure IBM Design serves and includes both Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) communities. Because disability occurs on a spectrum, we offer unique perspectives as people who operate differently not only from hearing people, but also from each other. For instance, Brent uses an ASL interpreter for both online and in-person meetings, while I speak but rely heavily on lipreading. My need to see people’s faces clearly necessitates a CART transcriber on video conference calls, due to the poor video quality. Though we communicate using entirely different methods, we both share the experience of living in a sometimes inaccessible world.

As both creators and beneficiaries of this technology, it is only natural that Brent and I help lead the team, offering our insights and advocating for diverse solutions. IBM’s commitment to accessibility for its employees (providing ASL interpreters and CART services, for example) has given us the ability to participate as leaders in the design process. I am proud to be on this team, and am excited for the future of IBM Accessibility, as well as the company at large, as we move towards a more inclusive, accessible world.

Was this article helpful?

More from Business transformation

Empower your technical staff with hands-on technology training

2 min read - With a vast amount of technology training and education available today, it’s difficult to know what deserves your attention and what’s just a marketing ploy. Furthermore, most training and education in technology is only offered through text or video, meaning that the learner doesn’t have an opportunity to apply the theory that they are learning. This naturally reduces the effectiveness of the training. Few programs offer to integrate and weave new training into the pre-existing training that is offered within…

Innovation with IBM® LinuxONE

4 min read - The IBM® LinuxONE server leverages six decades of IBM expertise in engineering infrastructure for the modern enterprise to provide a purpose-built Linux server for transaction and data-serving. As such, IBM LinuxONE is built to deliver security, scalability, reliability and performance, while it’s engineered to offer efficient use of datacenter power and footprint for sustainable and cost-effective cloud computing. We are now on our fourth generation of IBM LinuxONE servers with the IBM LinuxONE Emperor 4 (available since September 2022), and IBM…

Customer service vs. customer experience: Key differentiators

5 min read - In many organizations, but not all, customer service is treated as part of the customer experience. Both are interested in driving customer satisfaction, but they focus on different parts of the customer journey to achieve it. So what are the key differences in customer service vs. customer experience? And why do both matter for your business? Customer experience, or CX, is a holistic accounting of customers’ perceptions resulting from all their interactions with a business or brand, whether online or…

IBM Newsletters

Get our newsletters and topic updates that deliver the latest thought leadership and insights on emerging trends.
Subscribe now More newsletters