How IBM’s ‘Team Able’ Runs Through Accessiblity Challenges

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Erich Manser finishing the Boston Marathon, April 15, 2019, with fellow IBMer Bhumika Patel, who traveled from Bangalore to run as Erich’s sighted guide.

On, Thursday, May 16, IBM site locations and iX Design Studios across the U.S. will celebrate the eighth annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) – a worldwide observation to raise awareness of digital access and inclusion issues for people with disabilities.

As an IBMer with a disability, and a founding member of IBM’s Team Able, I am proud of our company’s legacy of including and supporting employees from all backgrounds and experiences.

Issues of disability are essential to discussions about diversity and inclusion in business. In the longer term, disability is the only diversity metric that will affect each of us to some degree at some point in our lifetimes. But in the immediate term, the disability metric (what one might term “usability” when viewed from this perspective) has direct implications for whether customers can – or cannot – use IBM’s products and services.

IBM’s Team Able has been instrumental in driving accessibility awareness across our company. Team Able is a community of IBMers with disabilities and “accessibility allies” and product teams. By engaging in direct and honest communication about advances and challenges to accessibility, our goal is to mainstream the perspectives of users who often experience barriers to access.

Team members from across the ability spectrum report heightened awareness of disability issues in product and service design, and an enhanced capacity for developing solutions that work for all.

To reach all of our customers, we must design for each. Inclusive design practices are only effective if they originate from authentic partnerships in which all viewpoints are recognized and understood. The benefits of incorporating diverse perspectives in design are measurable business results.

At IBM, we don’t have to look far to find true inclusion.

Erich Manser is a developer with IBM’s Accessibility Design, and Cloud and Cognitive Software groups. Follow IBM Accessibility (@IBMAccess) on Twitter, and tune into #GAAD2019 on May 16 to join the 2019 Global Accessibility Awareness Day conversation.

A version of this story first ran on IBM’s Age and Ability blog.

IBM Accessibility, IBM Research

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