The University of Massachusetts Boston (UMass Boston) and IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced a new research initiative to advance accessible technology solutions for people with disabilities, the growing elderly population, those with low literacy and novice technology users.
As part of IBM's Academic Initiative, IBM will provide access to technology and industry expertise to students, professors and researchers at UMass Boston's newly formed School for Global Inclusion and Social Development.
Working together, IBM and UMass Boston will work with state and federal government agencies as well as local and global non-governmental organizations to advocate for key policies and legislation related to technology accessibility. Additionally, the collaboration will explore new ways to integrate assistive technologies into the design of mobile devices, apps, or websites that enable access for people with disabilities and improve the overall user experience.
“Since the founding of the University of Massachusetts Boston nearly 50 years ago, access and inclusion have been at the heart of our mission and values,” said UMass Boston Chancellor J. Keith Motley. “We are pleased to join IBM in furthering this cause around the world.”
For instance, IBM and UMass Boston will work together to further develop the following applications using IBM technology:
- IBM My Campus Mobile App: This prototype app designed using IBM Worklight helps UMass students, faculty, and staff efficiently navigate the UMass Boston campus. The app uses GPS and mapping technology to help students identify building accessibility features such as ramps or text to speech capabilities for visually impaired, to help guide people around campus. The same capabilities used in this app could be expanded beyond campuses to whole cities.
- IBM Media Captioner and Editor: This new application automates the process of creating captioned videos. With the explosion of video media for entertainment, education and business there has never been a greater need to make video content accessible.
With more than 1 billion people with disabilities worldwide and half of the population over the age of 65 living with an age-related disability such as hearing or visual impairment, the global demand for technology accessibility continues to grow, making accessibility a mainstream requirement for governments and businesses around the globe. Enabling widespread access to key technologies such as mobile, cloud, social business and analytics will depend on the ongoing integration of adaptive, intuitive and accessible technology solutions.
“As more governments and businesses worldwide seek to enhance the usability and accessibility of products and services, UMass Boston students will develop the necessary skills to tackle these complex challenges and become a massive force of inclusion,” said William Kiernan, dean of UMass Boston's School for Global Inclusion and Social Development. “We are excited to work with IBM, which has been innovating in accessibility for more than 100 years, to help our students gain the training and experience needed to compete in the 21st-century workforce.”
UMass Boston has been a leading academic institution in accessibility and inclusion practices since 1971 through its Ross Center for Disability Services. Now, through its newly formed School for Global Inclusion and Social Development, the first graduate school in the world to focus on inclusion, wellness and economic development from an international perspective, UMass Boston students will engage in research in technology and accessibility and develop the skills necessary for leadership roles in careers in which they develop practices, procedures, and policies that support global inclusion.
“By developing new accessible innovations in mobile, social and human-centric computing, IBM and UMass Boston can deliver personalized interactions for any individual, on any device, regardless of the skills abilities or aptitudes of the global population,” said Frances West, Worldwide Director, IBM Human Ability and Accessibility Center. “Through this public-private collaboration, IBM and UMass Boston can speed innovation and increase digital access, while reducing the usability gap, so that everyone can live to the best of their ability and be productive and active participants in society.”
This collaboration is part of IBM's Academic Initiative and the IBM Human Ability and Accessibility Center. IBM's Academic Initiative offers participating schools no-charge access to IBM software, discounted hardware, course materials, training and curriculum development—over 6,000 universities and 30,000 faculty members worldwide are members of IBM's Academic Initiative. The IBM Human Ability and Accessibility Center focuses on exploring new technology solutions to address issues associated with disability, aging and low literacy. An integral part of IBM Research, the center is a worldwide organization that works with governments, collaborates with partners, and delivers solutions to clients worldwide.
Since 1914, IBM has had a significant presence in Massachusetts--this collaboration furthers IBM's long tradition of driving innovation in the Massachusetts. The largest IBM software development lab in North America is currently located in Littleton, Massachusetts. Additionally, IBM has acquired a number of Massachusetts-based companies, including Lotus and Unica and most recently Ounce Labs, Kenexa and Trusteer. IBM will offer UMass Boston students and professors training and access to IBM technology at the IBM Client and Innovation Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.