Detailed plan of activities related to the European Year of People with Disabilities
Centre d'accessibilité IBM, Europe Moyen Orient Afrique, IBM Accessibility Center EMEA
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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.
As the EYPD Bus travels in EU Countries, take the opportunity of this presence to:
Raise internal awareness through meetings on EYPD goals, people with disabilities issues and IBM solutions and answers
Use our websites to spread the EYPD 2003 message
Organize or contribute to external events with the support of EDF or national NGOs in charge of people with disabilities to promote Accessible IT and raise Web Accessibility awareness.
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:
Power the EYPD website with free IBM assistive technology to allow more citizens to get easier access to its content.
Promote internally and externally W3C/WAI Web Accessibility standards for a universal access to Internet. Our Web accessibility campaign will target both Public Sector because web accessibility is crucial to achieve a really inclusive e-democracy and Private Sector because it's good business sense and a competitive advantage.
Leverage our expertise and experience in such domains as "Usability", "User Centred Design" and "Ease of Use" to enhance web accessibility practices.
Develop new products and service offerings to help our employees and customers to use the web at its full potential. Apart from assistive products, services can cover web accessibility audit, assessment, consulting, education, training, retrofitting, redesign and web site accessibility monitoring.
Pursue worldwide effort to make electronic information and technology accessible through an active participation in EU and Worldwide standards committees for accessibility and design-for-all. (CEN/ISSS, ETSI, DATSCG, ISO, W3C/WAI )
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:
Accelerate hiring of people with disabilities and encourage their promotion through a mentoring program.
Ensure IBM facilities in Europe are accessible to all.
Simplify the internal cost recovery process for special equipment
Pursue and set up new partnerships with Universities / IT Schools. Our support in developing inclusive curriculum could help IBM recruit skilled people with disabilities out of this pool of graduated students.
Organize a European Employers Forum with other corporate partners, EDF, and public policy experts, during the EU Italian Presidency. The Forum will identify best practices and make recommendations for providing ICT in the workplace, to support an increase in employment of people with disabilities and to avoid people who acquire disabilities needing to retire or have long periods away from work. The results will be published and widely disseminated through employer and public sector networks.
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.
The requirements for accessibility have been included in our Product Development Guides. They are reviewed and assessed as part of each development phase.
We will ensure our products and solutions continue to meet accessibility requirements, with a quarterly monitoring.
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:
Continue education and training sessions on accessibility for IBM employees and propose these sessions for customers as well.
Increase support to professionals by providing enhanced accessibility guidelines, checklists, and productivity tools.
Launch an information and education campaign for managers on equal opportunity and benefits of hiring people with disabilities
Keep training hiring officers / HR partners
THE EUROPEAN YEAR OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
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.
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