IBM Software for Older Users

Big Blue introduces software that makes working on computers and surfing the Net easier for older employees – October 3, 2005 – IBM plans to roll out software Monday designed to make working on the computer and surfing the Net easier for aging workers, with tools that adjust keyboard settings and magnify web page content, among other features.
The new software tools, designed especially for older workers with disabilities, are the product of five years of work by IBM researchers. Big Blue is also looking to tap the world’s 11 million software developers by launching an online resource to enable them to build applications that include accessibility features.

With the software, IBM is targeting the seven in 10 Americans who say they plan on working past the age of 65, according to AARP. Also, two-thirds of the U.S. population will experience some sort of disability beyond the age of 65, according to the U.S. census.  

As workers get older, the main disabilities they develop are associated with vision, motor skills, and tremors, says Dr. Vicki Hanson, IBM’s Accessibility Research Group manager.


In the past, IBM has developed accessibility products for organizations such as the Parkinson’s Institute and SeniorNet. The company now plans to make them available for the general workforce, she said.

Multiple Features
Some of the products include a keyboard optimizer which helps users adjust their keyboard accessibility settings for one- or two-handed typing and long or short key presses.
Meanwhile, web adaptation technology software changes the view of web pages according to needs of users with vision or motor disabilities. With the software, users can magnify web page content and adjust font, image, and page layout to improve readability. Mouse-smoothing software helps users with hand tumors eliminate excessive cursor movement.
For developers, IBM is providing a reflexive user interface builder that will help them build applications that feature popular graphical user interfaces that are understandable and less challenging to older workers with disabilities.
The products will be available for 90-day free trial from IBM’s web site called alphaWorks, Dr. Hanson said.
“IBM is helping open up access to technology for people with disabilities and seniors in ways that will increase employment, productivity, and quality of life for millions of computer users,” said Andrew J. Imparato, president and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities.
Consulting Services
Recently, Big Blue has made efforts to address workplace issues linked to the aging workforce worldwide. In the United States, about 17 percent of the population is 60 or older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But the percentages are ever higher in other countries, including 17.52 percent in Canada and nearly 25 percent in Italy and the United Kingdom.
Among IBM’s initiatives, the company recently said it would provide consulting services to help organizations manage the potential loss of skilled baby-boomer-generation employees who are getting ready to retire.

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