The candle burns brighter / by IBM

The ballroom of the Marriott Marquis became quiet when he took the piano bench. In a voice full of life, he began a song, dedicated to his wife, which brought some to tears.

There was only one thing a little different about this moment on a stage in front of nearly 300 attendees. Mike Squillace, a software engineer for the IBM Human Ability and Accessibility Centre, is blind.

When IBM was honoured with the Helen Keller Award in Accessibility, last October, Austin-based M. Squillace was able to perform, a testament of his musical talents as well as the software knowledge he’s given to IBM to help people with disabilities.

In a world where nearly 750 million people have a disability, IBM has made accommodating a priority.

IBM has developed a number of products to aid accessibility. They include text-to-speech technology Via Voice, Easy Web Browsing Software for vision difficulty and WebAdapt2Me for physical limitations. Clients are also benefiting from the technological innovations. Macy’s and Japanese store Mitsukoshi have used EasyWeb Browsing software on their Web sites to enhance user-experience for the visually impaired.

IBM also provides videophones, remote-interpreting, ramps, power doors, parking facilities, captioned-videos and sign language interpreters to employees.

The company has even taken it a step further by accommodating those who do not have disabilities but still need accessibility resources. The Centre's recently expanded focus to the low literacy, ageing and cross-cultural populations has allowed others to benefit from the accessible technology solutions as well.

“Many don’t realize accessibility isn’t just for people with disabilities,” said My Luu, program director of the Human Ability and Accessibility Centre, noting many tools are already being re-purposed. “The Centre reaches out to a large range of people all over the world.”

India’s Centre organized the National Summit on Human Abilities and Accessibilities in Delhi in November 2007, which led to the president of India presenting the company with two awards— Innovation in Technology and Barrier Free Workplace. “We take a three-pronged approach that includes working with government, increasing accessibility visibility and working with researchers to drive technology,” said Anil U. Joshi, India program director.

Strides have also been made in China. Using the Center as a guide, several public Web sites improved their accessibility in preparation for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Beijing. The Human Centric Solutions Center in France became successful by proposing Web Accessibility Services to clients. It also helped to sponsor Paris Web, an internet accessibility event.

"I've had 23 managers and as many jobs at IBM. That in itself speaks to the commitment IBM has to its people…and to me" said Jim Sinocchi, director of workforce communications.

Sinocchi, who was hired as a college graduate over 30 years ago, said he was drawn to IBM because of its reputation. But when a surfing accident made him a quadriplegic at 25, he was proud to be part of an accessibility-minded company.

“I have worked in any number of IBM facilities and each location made the necessary changes to make me as productive as possible.”

IBM also supports recruiting programs like Entry Point, Project Able and Project View, programs which specifically target persons with diverse backgrounds and disabilities.

Ron Glover, vice president of diversity and workforce programs, supports the effort. “The programs are designed to give managers a chance to see what people with disabilities can do and a chance to see what IBM offers. It’s a win-win situation.”

For Pamela Siebert, a Kansas software engineer who is deaf, accessibility was a key factor when looking for a place to work.

“I knew IBM was a leader in the accommodation field,” said the former Miss Deaf Kansas. “People would never know I am deaf because of the technology and the tools that have allowed me to feel independent. I was even able to get a videophone in my office," she said. IBM has never said ‘no’ to me.


This was an article on the internal IBM website 2 weeks ago, I was really touched after reading this and thought that sometime we forgot that people with a disability are not that different than us, we all have to face similar challenge everyday.

But by giving anyone an opportunity to work in the best environment possible IBM raise higher to the challenge of today world where anyone should be treated with the same respect, intelligence and understanding, not matter what....



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