Frances West

Doing What is Right, Regardless of Age or Ability

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As we celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, I want to reflect on how far we’ve come in providing equal access to the information that makes everyone’s daily routines more manageable.

The task of making technology, applications, or the workplace accessible is ever-challenging. However, IBM has, with its long-standing belief that accessibility is not just the right thing to do but good for business, continued to lead by pushing the boundaries of what defines accessibility.

idpdAccessibility is a critical focus for organizations around the world. Initiatives are being driven by the more than 1 billion people with disabilities, including the growing aging population, the proliferation of mobile devices, and new industry standards and evolving government regulations.

Over this past year IBM has expanded its research to help clients around the world improve user experiences, manage compliance initiatives and create a more inclusive workforce. We leveraged our own compliance management knowledge and created the Accessibility Compliance System. We partnered with product teams to embed accessibility into our IBM Commerce/Tealeaf solution and worked with the IBM MobileFirst team to create the Mobile Accessibility Checker. We also took accessibility to the cloud to make it more available by creating two new Accessibility Services on IBM Bluemix. Finally, we collaborated with universities and announced new research projects, such as cognitive assistance for the blind, led by IBM Fellow, Chieko Asakawa. I encourage you to watch her TED Talk.

As we enter 2016 and the cognitive era, we will only accelerate the pace with which we can all become more independent, productive, and experience improvements in our overall quality of life. Future innovations in accessibility will help reshape the relationship between people, technology and the environment around us by supplementing and enhancing our human senses with text-to-speech, voice recognition, multi-modal authentication, and location-based services.

We are also looking into new ways of helping the world’s growing aging population, which represents one of the most complex challenges for the entire planet. Countries like China may have an aging population exceeding that of the entire U.S. population by 2050.

Combined with analytics, cloud, security and the Internet of Things, IBM’s leadership in cognitive computing and accessibility will create a new human experience through the development of context-driven systems and services that better understand everyone’s information consumption patterns in order to deliver a secure and personalized user experience on any device, regardless of the user’s age or ability.

My hope is that these new solutions will help us create a better, happier and more inclusive world that we can celebrate every day and not just once a year on December 3rd.

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