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IBM Pools Accessibility Tools

IBM is consolidating emerging technologies for people with disabilities under one Web site to promote the use and development of applications that target those users, officials announced Monday.

The accessibility resource site within Big Blue's alphaWorks is the third area of focused research -- semantics and visualization are the other two -- featuring technology downloads, articles and other online resources.

The launch of the alphaWorks accessibility site is timed to coincide with the launch of IBM's Mature Workforce Campaign.

The focus is on aging baby boomers, many of whom intend to continue working past their retirement age. IBM officials point to a recent survey by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), which shows seven in 10 Americans plan to work past the age of 65.

"We're seeing more people getting to the age where they're starting to develop these physical, perhaps, challenges," said Marc Goubert, manager of IBM's alphaWorks. "We're going to need to make applications more accessible for them."

Five applications created by IBM developers are available on the site now as free downloads:

  • Web adaptation technology dynamically adapts a Web page to user requirements with adjustable font, size and page layout. Works with Internet Explorer 5.5 and above.
  • Keyboard optimizer monitors keyboard use, looking for patterns, and suggests changes to keyboard layout, key repeating and key delays.
  • Shorthand-aided rapid keyboarding is a pen-based input tool for mobile devices using the shorthand sokgraph style.
  • Head-tracking pointer application uses a Web cam to monitor the head movement of the user, which in turn controls the actions of the mouse pointer.
  • Mouse-smoothing software is a user-programmable filter to eliminate jerky, abrupt hand movements on the pointer display.

For developers, IBM has also included on the accessibility site the IBM Reflexive User Interface Builder (RIB), an Eclipse-based application and API for developing GUIs based on XML scripts, as well as the aDesigner disability simulator for Web sites.

The site also features a number of documents and online tutorials for developers looking to create applications for those with disabilities.

The company has spent much of the year funneling resources into the advancement of software applications that help maturing and disabled workers stay on the job despite limitations that might otherwise affect their performance.

In August, IBM donated DHTML code used for the creation of rich Internet applications to the Mozilla Foundation, while last week the company launched an extension to its consulting business with a service to help organizations cope with baby boomers entering their retirement years.