IBM To Help Computer Students Develop Software For The Disabled

By Paul McDougall
Fri Mar 23, 4:00 PM ET

IBM said Friday that it will work with several major universities in the U.S. and Canada to help them develop computer programming methods that can be used to create software that is easier to use for individuals with certain disabilities.

Under the program, IBM said it would work with the University of Illinois, Georgia Tech, the University of Toronto, and several other institutions to create what it's calling the Accessibility Common Courseware Exchange for Software Studies (Access) repository.

The plan is to build a collection of repeatable learning materials that educators can use to teach computer science students ways in which software can be rendered that makes it easier to use by individuals with visual, speech, hearing, or cognitive disabilities.

For example, students using the courseware developed by IBM and the universities will, among other things, learn to create Web pages that are compatible with text-to-speech readers that allow the blind to surf the Web.

A recent survey commissioned by IBM of more than 200 two- and four-year U.S. universities found that the majority of faculty respondents do not teach accessibility in the classroom, due to a lack of familiarity with the topic and a shortage of learning materials to incorporate into existing classes. IBM said it wants to improve the skills for making software more accessible.

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