Inclusive Design

Call for Code Brings Unique Opportunities for Inclusive Innovations

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These are exciting times at IBM, following CEO Ginni Rometty’s May 24th announcement about Call for Code.

As Laurent Sauveur of the United Nations Human Rights office points out, Call for Code is an excellent opportunity to explore how technology can play a role in addressing the needs of the most vulnerable populations.  IBMer Daniel Hebert sums it up in the following short clip.

“At IBM, we harness the power of technologies like AI, blockchain, IoT and cloud to address some of the biggest opportunities and challenges in business,” said Bob Lord, IBM chief digital officer. “Now, with Call for Code, we are calling on all developers to join us and use these same leading edge technologies to help people, their communities and society.”

With this initiative, IBM and David Clark Cause are joining forces with the UN Human Rights Office in an ambitious global effort to tackle one of the most pressing societal issues: Natural Disasters.

This is particularly exciting from the standpoint of IBM’s Accessibility team, as Call for Code projects can potentially help address the needs of people with a disablity or physically impaired people in crisis situations and emergency response. Globally, people with disabilities represent an often overlooked community, and a distinctly vulnerable population, particularly with regard to crisis management and response.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there are 15% (more than 1 billion people worldwide) who identify as having a disability, plus the over-60 population is 900 million (12%) and expected to grow to 2 billion by 2050 (22%). By 2050, 80% of older people will be living in low- and middle-income countries. Call for Code offers a unique opportunity to drive innovations that account for all human needs across the world.

If you are forming a team, or considering making a submission, you may ask yourself: “But where do I begin? How do I come up with a solution that helps people with disabilities when I don’t have or know anyone with a disability?” The answer is: You do. Disability is the one “identity group” we all get to join, to one degree or another, during our lifetime. Whether short or long-term, temporary or permanent, consider all the people in your life. That neighbor who walks with a cane, your elderly aunt in that third floor walk-up, or the colleague from work who complains that it’s getting harder to read the “fine print” on their phone. Now imagine these folks in a crisis situation, where seconds count, and you’d like to help them get to safety. Design for that. And not only that, include them in the process – ask questions, find out what could work for them, and what would definitely not. Don’t make assumptions. Build inclusive technology that is more human, empathetic and adaptive to everyone’s age and ability. Use technology to empower and eliminate barriers to information.

The challenge is on. Come join us, bring your best, most inclusive ideas, and help answer the Call for Code, register today at

Additional details, a full schedule of in-person and virtual events, and training and enablement for Call for Code are available at

Accessibility Research

Charu Pandhi

Advisory Software Engineer

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