There is a steady stream of articles and opinions on how the tech industry clearly could and should work harder to meet the needs of individuals and groups with special needs.
But while the overall industry record on accessibility could be better, some individual vendors, such as Lenovo, have made accessibility a core issue organizationally and in their business and development processes. Let’s consider it announcements made by Lenovo underline Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD).
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GAAD and the tech industry
So what is GAAD? Originally inspired by a blog published in 2011 by web developer Joe DevonGAAD aims to increase awareness and drive innovations that make technology products and services more accessible and useful for estimating 1 billion people around the world who struggle with disabilities, including visual, hearing, motor and cognitive impairments. GAAD supporters recommend following Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) that the World Web Consortium (W3C) first published in 1997.
With nearly a quarter of a century of planning, effort, and funding, you’d think WCAG (now WCAG 2.0) had come a long way, right? Not enough.
In fact, a 2020 WebAIM A study analyzed one million homepages for accessibility issues and found that 98.1% of homepages contained at least one WCAG 2.0 failure (resulting in significant errors). Additionally, the one million homepages analyzed had an average of 60.9 errors each, including missing and low-contrast text and empty links and buttons.
For healthy workers and consumers, these errors are usually minor inconveniences. However, such errors can create serious obstacles for a multitude of people with disabilities. In turn, as people, organizations, countries and regions increasingly turn to using digital services and tools in education, workplaces, government and business processes and hobbies. This means that inaccessible technologies prevent hundreds of millions of people with disabilities from living, learning and working fully.
Essentially, accessibility is of vital importance to individuals and organizations around the world.
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Lenovo Diversity by Design and GAAD 2022
What has Lenovo done to make its solutions and services more accessible? In 2020, the company created a new Product Diversity Office (PDO) designed to ensure that Lenovo products have been developed with “diversity by design,” that is, in accordance with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) goals.
To achieve this, various teams work in the planning and execution phases of the product, and the PDO also consults with a wide range of diverse users to validate designs and provide feedback. Finally, Lenovo encourages partnerships with employee resource groups and diversity partners like its Accessibility and Inclusion Advisor, Haben Girma (the first deaf/blind person to graduate from Harvard Law School).
These and other efforts have led to announcements coinciding with GAAD 2021. This year’s GAAD 2022 inspired new messages and announcements from Lenovo, including:
- A Commentary by Ada Lopez, Manager and Program Manager for Lenovo PDO which shares his thoughts on verifying the accessibility of 38 company products and launching a new “accessibility consultation” process and form. Lopez shares some examples of the benefits the company has brought, as well as her thoughts on the future of Lenovo PDO.
- A message from Thorsten Stremlau, CTO and Executive Director of Lenovo’s Commercial Product Portfolio on a recent collaboration between the company and Dr. Peter Scott-Morgan for Lenovo Kind Cities Campaign– an initiative highlighting the need for caring in all communities. Diagnosed with motor neuron disease (MND) – also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – in 2017, Dr. Scott-Morgan provided insight to Lenovo and partners on developing accessibility solutions to create better experiences for people with disabilities. Stremlau also discusses how the Covid-19 pandemic has increased Lenovo’s focus on mental health and helping people with anxiety, PTSD and other pandemic-related conditions.
- A article exploring a partnership between Lenovo Turkey and blind gaze to become the first computer brand in Turkey to cater to the visually impaired. Through this partnership, all Lenovo laptops and desktops will be compatible with audio simulation technology designed to allow greater user access. These include 16 simulations in Lenovo Thinkpad Carbon models designed to help users with disabilities learn common tasks, such as browsing the Internet, using office applications, and information about using the keyboard.
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More Productive Lives
Messages and announcements celebrating GAAD 2022 paint a bright picture of Lenovo PDO and the company’s efforts to develop accessible business products and services while continuing to pursue its diversity, equity and inclusion goals.
The general direction of the company’s DE&I efforts reflects its ambitions in this area, as well as the breadth of Lenovo’s global operations. With support operations in more than 60 countries and sales in approximately 180 countries, the company’s literal global reach means that the benefits of Lenovo PDO and its technology accessibility strategy can potentially reach most of the $1 billion. people with disabilities and help them enjoy full, more productive lives.
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