Tools make IT more accessible to older workers

Out-Law News | 04 Oct 2005 | 3:36 pm | 1 min. read

IBM has released software aimed at helping businesses create a work environment more conducive to maturing workers' comfort and productivity. The software makes IT more accessible to those with age-related disabilities and other physical limitations.

Some of the applications are of a type familiar to many: tools that allow users to increase the size of text on their screen or have the computer read the text aloud. Others are less well known.

IBM's Mouse Smoothing Software enables people who suffer from hand tremors to eliminate excessive cursor movement, thereby allowing more normal use of a PC. The software filters out the shaking movements of the hand – in a manner similar to the way image stabilising systems of some camera lenses work.

Its Keyboard Optimizer adjusts the standard response settings of a user's keyboard, such as the delay before keys start to repeat. Appropriate settings can help people with motor disabilities to type more easily and accurately, but they can be difficult to use. So the Keyboard Optimizer allows users to demonstrate how they type, determines what response settings would be best, and sets them.

Additionally, IBM is launching a new online resource for software developers, to make it easier for them to build applications that include accessibility features.

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 US Census Bureau, about two-thirds of the US population will experience a disability after age 65, increasing the need to make information technology more accessible. According to the World Health Organization, between 750 million and 1 billion of the world's 6 billion people have a speech, vision, mobility, hearing or cognitive disability.

"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."