SOURCE: IBM

October 03, 2005 13:19 ET

IBM Makes Computing More Accessible to Maturing Workers

SOMERS, NY -- (MARKET WIRE) -- October 3, 2005 -- IBM today unveiled new technologies aimed at helping businesses create a work environment more conducive to maturing workers' comfort and productivity. The software makes information technology more accessible to those with age-related disabilities and other physical limitations.

IBM's new software tools, developed by IBM researchers who specialize in creating technologies to help people with disabilities and the maturing workforce, can help businesses cater to employees that wish to stay on the job despite physical impairments. For example, the technologies allow aging workers to increase the size of text on their screen, have the computer read the text aloud, and make the keyboard easier to use. Additionally, IBM is reaching out to the world's close to 11 million software developers, launching a new online resource to make it easier for developers to build applications that include accessibility features.

The new technologies are available for download in a new accessibility section on IBM's alphaWorks Web site, a strategic outlet for emerging technologies created in IBM's research and development labs worldwide. The accessibility section will host the new and existing accessibility technologies, as well as articles and tutorials to help drive accessibility skills among the global developer community.

Today's news follows IBM's recent announcement of business consulting services that help companies prepare for the baby-boomer transition by understanding their employee base in real-time, retaining employees, transitioning knowledge and transforming business processes to cope with the demographic change and significant skill shift. Additionally, IBM recently announced its contribution of accessibility software to the Mozilla Foundation's open standards-based Firefox Web browser, as well as an IBM offering to universities that gives faculty and students a free license to a disability simulator that helps Web designers ensure that their Web pages are accessible and usable by the visually impaired.

These advancements are part of IBM's commitment to making information technology accessible to people, regardless of age or ability, by fostering an ecosystem of developers, business partners and academia to work toward that goal. A recent survey by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) shows that 7 in 10 Americans plan on working past the age of 65. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about two-thirds of the U.S. population will experience a disability after age 65, increasing the need to make information technology more accessible. In fact, between 750 million and 1 billion of the world's 6 billion people have a speech, vision, mobility, hearing or cognitive disability, according to the World Health Organization.

Organizations face the need to maintain an older and productive workforce to preserve years of valuable work experience and expensive job turnover. Accessibility technologies can help the maturing workforce remain productive by providing features and functions that make information technology usable by a person with a disability. By applying accessible technologies, IBM's clients can be more responsive to their customers, citizens and employees.

"Once again, IBM is leading the way in making everyday technology accessible for users with disabilities," said Andrew J. Imparato, President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities. "As the job market places increasing importance on information technology skills, it becomes essential that workers with disabilities, including many older workers, have easy access to solutions that maximize their long-term employment opportunities."

"We believe that companies, government agencies and organizations that adopt accessible technology gain a competitive advantage," said Frances West, director of the IBM Worldwide Accessibility Center. "They are able to attract and retain the very best workers, and benefit from their skills, insight and the knowledge they can share with the next generation of workers."

IBM's new accessibility technologies for the maturing workforce include:

--  Keyboard Optimizer -- helps users adjust their keyboard accessibility
    settings to suit their typing style. For example, it adjusts settings for
    one- or two-handed typing, and for long or short key presses,
    characteristics that could be impacted by a disability.  The Keyboard
    Optimizer is a quick, easy and accurate way to adjust a keyboard to suit a
    particular user. It allows users to demonstrate how they type, determines
    what accessibility settings would be best, and sets them.
    
--  Web Adaptation Technology -- dynamically adapts Web pages to meet the
    needs of individuals with visual and motor limitations. The software can
    magnify the contents of a Web page and adjust font, image, and page layout
    to improve readability.  It also features a "text to speech" feature for
    those with visual impairments and eases typing for people who have
    difficulty with a keyboard -- users with tremors, arthritis or those
    recovering from a stroke -- by detecting errors and automatically adjusting
    keyboard sensitivity to accommodate typing.   This technology, which was
    developed with the input of seniors to be particularly easy to use, is the
    basis of WebAdapt2Me, which is now being sold to companies, organizations
    and educational institutions.
    
--  Mouse Smoothing Software -- enables people who suffer from hand
    tremors to eliminate excessive cursor movement, thereby allowing more
    normal use of a personal computer. Computer users can simply download the
    software and it filters out the shaking movements of the hand - in a manner
    similar to the way image stabilizing systems of some camera lenses work.
    The software, which is designed to work with any PC and operating system,
    can benefit users in homes and offices, as well as in public places like
    libraries and universities.
    
--  Reflexive User Interface Builder - helps software developers build
    applications that feature popular graphical user interfaces that are still
    accessible to people with disabilities and mature workers.  Powerful
    graphics generally pose a particular challenge to users whose eyesight is
    fading from age or other causes.  The tool is of particular interest to
    software developers that create and sell applications to government
    agencies and must comply with sophisticated accessibility regulations.
    
For more information about IBM's latest accessibility technologies, visit alphaWorks at: www.ibm.com/alphaworks/topics/accessibility.

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