Rockville, Md., Oct. 25 – IBM always has been inclusive of the disability community ever since they first hired a person with a disability in 1914. Since then, the company has taken numerous steps and created various programs to ensure that people with disabilities are well accommodated for within their organization and that their consumers with disabilities are provided with accessible and sound products.
More than 25 years ago, Yves Veulliet, a wheelchair user, started as an entry-level administrative assistant at IBM.
“IBM already had very high accessibility standards back then and I could work without any obstacles,” he said. “All my colleagues could interact with me easily and I felt completely autonomous.”
In 2005 he was promoted to Global Disability & Inclusion Manager. “To me, it was a way of paying back IBM for all they allowed me to be and become in my professional path.”
Innovation, Society and Talent
IBM’s reasoning for hiring people with disabilities can be simplified into three words: innovation, society and talent. Innovation generates the ideas that propel the organization, and IBM wants a wide spectrum of employees that can generate products for their wide variety of customers. “The reality is that we are all afraid of the unknown,” said Veulliet. “Most people are uncomfortable at first around people with disabilities, it is natural.”
The company focuses on society with the philosophy that in order for it to function properly, all people need to participate in it equally. Members of the company believe they can do well by doing good. IBM also wants the most talented employees possible, so they look at people of different backgrounds to accomplish this, including those with disabilities.
In order to recruit and retain employees with disabilities, IBM has implemented programs and practices that successfully attract qualified individuals. A reasonable accommodation fund exists that covers the cost of adaptive equipment, transportation or interpreting services that are necessary for a person with a disability to proficiently do their job. This allows hiring managers to select candidates they deem most suitable or qualified without having to worry about the cost to department budgets. Disability awareness training also is provided to IBM recruitment specialists, general employees and managers.
An example of one of the programs in place to help attract people with disabilities is Project View. This is a recruitment initiative designed to offer candidates of diverse backgrounds the opportunity to explore career paths within IBM to network and interview with various members of the IBM recruitment team and IBM hiring managers and executives. Candidates also can meet and speak with members of IBM’s Business Resource Groups, which reflect the wide range of employees working together to tackle technological problems facing society today and to address the various needs of their clients.
“At the end of the day, an employer’s mission is to provide me with an enabling environment so I can manage my disability,” said Veulliet. “My mission as an employee is to manage my disability and my work. Roles must be clear for both.”
Serving Customers with Disabilities
IBM has been equally as active in the development of products and services by identifying technology solutions for people with disabilities. The company follows the idea that manufacturing accessible products will create an unparalleled business opportunity and a way to differentiate IBM from its competitors. Since 1999, all new products are evaluated for accessibility and are made 508 compliant.
As a result, IBM focuses on weaving in accessibility during the initial product development stage and then conducts accessibility assessments at key checkpoints. Access is a key criterion that IBM uses to select vendors or suppliers and it is identified as a requirement when procuring components from third parties.
In addition to manufacturing accessible products, the company provides consulting services for companies that seek to integrate accessibility solutions into their corporate activities. IBM Accessibility Services enables its clients to realize the benefits of integrating accessibility. It also drives accessibility into the company’s product development process and invents technologies that help remove barriers and extend capabilities.
The leadership at IBM clearly shows a commitment to inclusiveness; the idea is one of the factors that promote the generation of new products and services that drive the company forward. Inclusion of people with disabilities also is clearly evident within IBM’s customer base, as the company offers various products and services specifically for people with multiple types of disabilities. In order to successfully create these products that satisfy all their customers’ needs and expectations, they look to all contributing parties, including people with disabilities. This kind of commitment is one that RespectAbility’s campaign #RespectTheAbility seeks to highlight.
RespectAbility is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities for people with disabilities. We understand we are a stronger community when we live up to our values – when we are welcoming, diverse, moral and respect one another. We work with entertainment, policy makers, educators, self-advocates, nonprofits, employers, faith-based organizations, philanthropists, journalists and online media to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities. Led by people with disabilities and those who love them, we know that people with disabilities and their families have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else, even if they face different challenges. We do not lobby; we educate. Our free tools and factual resources inform so people with disabilities can achieve the education, training, jobs, security and good health that everyone needs and deserves. https://www.respectability.org