Frances West

IBM and Microsoft Collaborate on Accessible Office Assessments

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by Frances West, IBM Chief Accessibility Officer, and Kevin Cavanaugh, Vice President, Smarter Workforce Engineering, IBM Smarter Workforce

Accessibility is essential to reducing the barriers to the technology that provides a connection to the information everyone needs in their daily lives. It also creates a smarter, more inclusive workplace by ensuring that organizations can better engage and support the broadest range of job applicants and employees which leads to increased job satisfaction and business performance.

IBM and Microsoft have announced a solution through IBM Kenexa Assess on Cloud that will allow customers who are blind or visually impaired to assess a person’s ability to use Microsoft Office through simulation technology. More than 1.2 billion people use Office and many rely on Office for employment. Typically, these types assessment simulations have been inaccessible to people who are blind or have low vision because they use images to represent Microsoft Office and cannot be read by screen readers.

To make these simulated tests equivalent and accessible for all, IBM developed a first-of-a-kind cloud-based assessment solution that integrates Microsoft Office with screen reading software remotely, this gives the user the same experience as a person running the test locally. Because the assessment is running on a remote machine for the simulation Microsoft and IBM are making the services necessary for the assessment free for all users.

This collaboration creates an accessible solution that can be a model for inclusive assessments around the world and demonstrates the importance of coming together to ensure equal access to products and services for people of all ages and abilities. The new accessible assessments will be available before the end of the year.

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