Inclusive Design

IBM Employees with Disabilities Volunteer Time to Create Accessible Technology

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Who better to confirm the accessibility of solutions before they are released to market than people with disabilities?

Being visually impaired, I rely considerably on magnification and altered colors to see what’s on my device screens. One day, not long ago, I sat in a room full of developers in a meeting and it was illuminating to hear the many reactions at how things looked so different on my laptop monitor.

I realized that many of these folks had likely heard about the importance of product accessibility but had perhaps never been shown an example of a user experience when something was not accessible.

Introducing Team Able

It was this realization that led to the creation of IBM Team Able, which is a group of IBM employees with disabilities who volunteer their time to help offering managers, designers, and developers by providing real-time input and sharing sessions. This helps connect the dots between formal accessibility requirements and end user benefits, leading to more inclusive products the can delight a greater number of users. Team Able has more than 80 volunteers worldwide representing a broad spectrum of disability types.

Most people are not intimately familiar with assistive technology, such as the use of screen readers by blind users to help navigate a website, or how color contrast, keyboard navigation and focus could provide a poor user experience. Team Able is able to provide critical feedback and help product teams understand how people with different abilities might face difficulties with an interface, and offer guidance how to correct the issues.

“Having access to a group like Team Able helps put all of the accessibility standards / guidelines into perspective. Even though I’ve been keenly aware of the guidelines for several years, I sometimes forget that there are varying degrees of disabilities for which the standards have been written, and it’s always helpful to talk to someone who can benefit from adherence to those standards.”

Matt Funk, Product Owner, Bluepages/W3 Publisher

Early indicators have signaled clear excitement from Team Able members about the concept of helping IBM teams develop more inclusive products & services, and a chance of “being heard”:

“What (Team Able) does greatly benefits and supports disability in the workforce. By taking some simple actions and sharing experiences, we’re showing a variety of abilities. It’s important we share these perspectives with IBM teams.”

Ricky Inagaki, GTS and Team Able member

Team Able is not just a mechanism to enable inclusive design at IBM, it is itself another example of IBM’s commitment to diversity and leadership in creating accessible technology solutions.

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