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Detailed plan of activities related to the European Year of People with Disabilities

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Jean-Louis CARVES

Centre d'accessibilité IBM, Europe Moyen Orient Afrique, IBM Accessibility Center EMEA


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General framework

Society has benefited in many ways from the Information Technology revolution taking place around the world. In reality, we have just scratched the surface in how these changes will reshape the way we live, do business, participate in education, and access culture. People with disabilities are among the groups that could get the greatest benefits from this revolution

The Internet, for example, has opened up a world of information, education and electronic commerce opportunities to many individuals with disabilities. But the new systems and products have not always been designed with the requirements of disabled people and the elderly in mind. Therefore, they are often not accessible for use by these groups of people.

There is a high risk that IT will cause greater difficulties for disabled and elderly people, rather than promoting new opportunities. Personal service is rapidly being replaced by IT and web-based services, both in public and private sectors. Nearly all these systems make considerable demands on users in terms of their ability to read and write, interpret information quickly and make decisions.

Progress in assistive technology has already made it possible for many people with disabilities to compete successfully for jobs in which information technology is utilized and to provide opportunity for independence. But in a world where technology is evolving so rapidly, more needs to be done to ensure that everyone benefits from and participates fully in today's information technology world where much of the technology is still not designed for accessibility. Using this technology is not difficult when accessibility features are included in the initial design of products and solutions.

The inclusion of new technologies to support accessibility and the migration of "accessibility" to the mainstream through pervasive devices will bring new challenges, new benefits and the opportunity for governments, companies and individuals to realize new value. IBM's commitment to technology and services around accessibility has positioned us to support public and private organisations that wish to exploit them for the benefit of all, thus making accessibility the standard instead of the exception.

Accessibility is key but a tremendous effort is also needed to help more people with disabilities overcome the barriers they face in the labour market preparing for, obtaining and maintaining employment. Workforce diversity is a business imperative for IBM. Respecting and valuing our work force and customer diversity is integral to our success. To compete and win in the marketplace, we need to attract, and to retain, the most talented and motivated people. Our customers expect us to reflect this diversity in our work force. A corporate task force dedicated to people with disabilities was launched several years ago and maintains a focus on new initiatives, as technology and ways of thinking open new avenues of progress.

IBM wants to bring the benefits of our experiences and successes to other organisations.

Working with communities and NGO's representing people with disabilities is the best way to understand community needs and issues and drive IBM R&D to meet these requirements in today's and future mainstream or assistive products and solutions.

Through our Corporate Community Relations programmes we seek to achieve a win / win for both the company and the communities we work in. By working with organisations, we enhance our reputation in the community, we build our brand value, we develop our own knowledge and capabilities as well those of the communities with which we work, we make ourselves more attractive to prospective employees and through our educational activities we increase not just the skills of the community but the pool of talent from which we can recruit.

Areas of concrete activities

EYPD Awareness raising

As the EYPD Bus travels in EU Countries, take the opportunity of this presence to:


IBM Accessibility Centres have been created in Europe, Japan and the US supporting the development of Accessible Products, Assistive Technologies and service offerings. In Europe, IBM's initiatives are driven by the IBM Accessibility Centre in Paris, France, created specifically to promote the IBM accessibility offerings for customers in Europe.

Our main focus will be on Web Accessibility issues and solutions:


Disability does not mean inability. Many talented individuals with disabilities are willing and able to work but are too often denied gainful employment due to discrimination and the lack of appropriate facilities and support in the workplace

Employers and managers who have hired individuals with disabilities have found that they can work on equal terms and are reliable, productive, and committed employees. Moreover, people with disabilities have already demonstrated a capacity to overcome obstacles, use initiative and strive to succeed, which is exactly what employers need - these are business benefits.

During the EYPD IBM will:

Product Design

Since January 1999, a corporate instruction provides direction to all IBM operating organizations and subsidiaries about features, functions, and controls that must be designed into IBM hardware and software products, Internet web pages, and internal applications to make these offerings accessible to people who have disabilities or who due to aging have reduced abilities.

Education and training within IBM

Accessibility benefits everyone, so it is important to educate everyone about accessibility and assistive technologies, not just people with disabilities.

During the EYPD IBM will:


2003 is the European Year of People with Disabilities(1) . The main purpose of the Year is to drive forward the political agenda for full integration of people with disabilities. This decision has given an opportunity to people with disabilities across Europe to put their rights at the top of the agenda for Europe and the Members States.

The objectives of the Year are:

(a) To raise awareness of the rights of people with disabilities to protection against discrimination and to full and equal enjoyment of their rights;

(b) To encourage reflection on and discussion of the measures needed to promote equal opportunities for people with disabilities in Europe;

(c) To promote the exchange of experience of good practice and effective strategies devised at local, national and European level;

(d) To reinforce the co-operation between all parties concerned, namely government, the social partners, NGOs, the social services, the private sector, communities, voluntary sector groups, people with disabilities and their families;

(e) To improve communication regarding disability and promote a positive image of people with disabilities;

(f) To raise awareness of the heterogeneity of people with disabilities and of the various kind of disability;

(g) To raise awareness of the multiple discrimination facing people with disabilities;

(h) To pay special attention to awareness of the right of children and young people with disabilities to equality in education, so as to encourage and support their full integration in society and to promote the development of European co-operation between those professionally involved in the education of children and young people with disabilities, in order to improve the integration of pupils and students with special needs in ordinary or specialised establishments and in national and European exchange programmes.

(1). Council Decision of 3 December 2001, Official Journal L 335 of 19.12.2001, WebPages:;

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