IBM Serendipity

Two years ago in the middle of my degree I went to meet with IBM HR. The idea was to have a chat to them about my vision of an inclusive and accessible world through technology..

IBM stand at a fantastic point within the technology sector where they have the ability to touch a huge amount of organizations in wildly different fields. It was this very point that made me think IBM and I could be a perfect match.

There is a need for all technology to be inclusively designed, to enable everyone to have universal access. From mobile devices, to the internet of things to access to transport. Indeed it was IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative that made me believe there was a way to make the world accessible through the advancement of new technologies.

I pitched to HR that I would be a wonderful fit for an accessibility evangelist, working with all manner of partners focussing on how technology could be made inclusive. From advising on human interface interactions that not only had visual elements but auditory and haptic, to communicating complex information in new and interesting ways. I continued by highlighting that the opportunity to interact with clients at the early stage would aid in a universal design approach amongst all technology.

Indeed it is this early stage approach why I have had great success with Kickstarter. I often find projects in the very early stages and communicate with the team on how minor adjustments could be made to improve accessibility. Be it the addition of audible tones or changing a UI to take into account a blind user. I have also had great success with FitBit and Drop scales. With both companies I advised on how to communicate information in different forms to increase accessibility. The added benefit of this change in communicating information was a greater understanding by all users not just those who cannot see.

I imagine a world where as the next 1 billion people and 10 billion devices come online there is no barrier for interaction, as these products and services have taken a universal approach from the beginning. It is also worth highlighting that this approach can create benefit for all users not just those who rely on accessibility. For example, a low vision user may be aided by contrasting or night mode colour themes, these exact features also assist any individual using the device at night. The route to a truly intuitive and simple design can also be achieved by taking the needs of a blind user. As if you can make a user interface or product that a blind user can utilise, it truly is simple and intuitive.

It was during this conversation I highlighted how important this approach is to all services and products. There should never be an assumption that a particular product or service will not be utilised by a particular demographic. To highlight this I mentioned how I had utilised RunKeeper to learn to run solo outdoors. It would have been easy for RunKeeper to assume a blind person would not use their app. After all what use would this be to a blind person. But thankfully they did and I was able to achieve what was once perceived impossible, to learn to run solo outdoors.

I continued by saying this is why I wanted to work with IBM, I wanted to make sure every service and every product across all sectors became accessible. Just imagine the impact this could achieve with the number of partners and clients IBM work with. With accessibility an assumed standard across the board just imagine the impossible things that could be achieved in the next few years.

During the rest of the conversation IBM HR mentioned they could imagine me starring in an IBM commercial, demonstrating what accessible technology can enable people to do. Well if we fast forward 2 years that opportunity arrived. IBM gave me a call and asked if I could like to be featured in a little video. I of course said yes and the result is the video below.

In those past 2 years I have continued to try and make the world a more accessible place, through advocating for universal design, working with many tech firms and countless public speaking appearances at large tech events. But I still feel I could do so much more, there is still a need for that evangelist role and I am still a great fit. There is a real need to ensure universal design across the board. When that goal is achieved countless people will be enabled to achieve the impossible.

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