December 8, 2017 | Written by: Tom Babinszki
Categorized: Inclusive Workforce
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Mobility and independence are powerful devices, especially for someone with a disability.
Every year as we celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities, I am reminded why I work for IBM – its long history of inclusion, commitment to workforce diversity, and innovations in accessibility.
I joined IBM in 2013 for the IBM Accessibility Research team and have worked in many areas, including mobile accessibility, online and onsite training, and legal compliance.
Tom Babsinszki demonstrates how he uses a screen reader while training colleagues on accessibility.
Before I was hired, my soon-to-be manager asked me about the equipment and services I would need to be most productive in my employment.
As I am completely blind, I certainly needed a screen reader, without it I would not be able to get the smallest assignment done. However, I was a bit worried to ask for too much fearing that if I was too greedy it might be the end of my employment that hadn’t yet started.
Hearing my hesitation, he proactively asked me about different equipment, such as a braille display, a character recognition system, and a braille printer. The answer was the same, I would certainly use it because a good set of assistive tools that can better compensate for my blindness can make me a more productive employee. So, instead of the absolute necessities, we agreed on a set of tools which will make me most productive.
On the first day of my employment, I had a laptop computer with all necessary assistive technologies installed, and a braille embosser on the way to our house, as I was working from home.
When a person with a disability requires an accessibility related accommodation, we use our Accessible Workplace Solution, where either a manager or a person with a disability can request software, hardware or services to compensate for their disability. Once the request is reviewed, the request is executed immediately. These requests may include an upgrade for our screen reader, captioning of a video, a sign language interpreter, switches, keyboards, or a personal assistant when technology is not able to resolve the problem.
Today, I’m working as an onsite accessibility educator. In the last year, I have traveled to ten countries and 25 cities (with my trusty sidekick and guide dog Baldwin). I am using accessible technology to organize my trips, schedule flights, book hotels, present materials, take care of my daily needs, and keep in touch with the office (and family) all while on the road.
By showing this level of support for its employees, IBM is able to hire a diverse pool of talent in the workplace, while increasing job satisfaction and performance.
I’m proud of the culture of inclusion IBM has created to support all of its employees.