Accessibility Drives Innovation

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In celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, IBM Research hosted a full day of accessibility education, discussions, and demonstrations at the Thomas J Watson Research Center to show how accessibility is driving business differentiation for everyone, regardless of human ability.
Accessibility is a critical foundational element of technology solutions that allow humans and machines to interact effectively and intuitively. And it’s not just people with disabilities; accessibility has become a mainstream technology that allows everyone – including the aging population and those will low or no literacy – to be productive and active participants in society.
Reinventing the Relationship Between People and Technology
The event featured Peter Mahoney, the Chief Marketing Officer of Nuance and GM of Dragon, who shared his perspectives on assistive technology in our world, the expanding definition of accessibility, and the role that cognitive computing plays in the future of accessibility.
Peter Mahoney, CMO of Nuance and GM of Dragon
“There is amazing human potential that is being untapped right now through accessible technology,” said Mahoney.
Driven by government regulations, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act or the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the explosion of mobile devices and the growing demand of all users for a more personalized experience, accessibility has become a requirement for commercial and government organizations around the globe.
Mahoney stressed the importance of tapping into the incredible intellect and ideas that people of all abilities can offer in work and life. The advent of accessible technologies reduces barriers, makes information more meaningful and consumable, and optimizes communications.
Moving forward cognitive computing, along with recent advancements in natural language understanding and artificial intelligence, will play a huge role in how accessibility creates personal assistants that serve us.
“Everyone is fundamentally flawed,” said Mahoney. “After all, we’re human. We can all benefit from being enabled and aided by technology.”
Creating more intuitive technologies that improve usability on any device – anytime and anywhere – will address everyone’s needs, such as shopping experiences, visits to the doctor, or navigating a new city. The result is more effective personal interactions, increased user satisfaction, and a way for businesses to differentiate products and services.
However, while the future presents tremendous opportunity for the ongoing development of human-centric technology, organizations are still challenged to accept that accessibility has economic value, in addition to being the right thing to do.
“Accessibility has changed people from being slaves to technology, to technology being a service to people,” said Mahoney. “Everyone has great ideas that want to be shared and ensuring technology is fluent in how humans communicate and interact will have a great impact on society as a whole.”
Dr. John Kelly, SVP and Director of IBM Research, joins others to see the Access My Campus demo
Innovations in Accessibility
IBM experts from around the world also spent time demonstrating some of the human-centric technologies being created to assist pe

ople of all abilities. Some of the demonstrations included:

  • Access My Campus: This mobile app is designed to help university students, faculty, and staff navigate efficiently around campus. The app allows each user to personalize the interface to take advantage of the accessibility features built into a mobile device. The app provides real-time indoor navigation to people with low vision or who are blind, in addition to anyone unfamiliar with a campus. 
  • IBM Media Captioner and Editor: With the explosion of digital multimedia content, there has never been a greater need to make video content accessible. This automated captioning solution reduces the cost and time it takes to create accessible multimedia (videos, webcasts, etc.) by allowing users to edit draft transcripts to ensure better accuracy of content. The resulting transcribed and captioned multimedia is not only usable for more people in a variety of circumstances and environments, but also easier for search engines to index and rank, optimizing the online visibility of enterprise digital content.
  • IBM Accessible Workplace Connection: A web-based, global accommodation management solution that provides employees and their managers a streamlined process of requesting reasonable accommodations – assistive technologies or accessibility services – in order to be more productive in their jobs. IBM Accessible Workplace Connection ensures proper accommodations are delivered, changed, supported and maintained, creating a more inclusive workplace for individuals to advance and contribute.
Learn more about IBM’s accessibility initiatives, and join the discussions with us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.
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