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The Access Line
Interview with Robin Wilner, Vice President, Global Community Initiatives, IBM
Axel Leblois (A.L.): The Corporate Citizens and Corporate Affairs of IBM sponsored an important web accessibility training session for 200 CDPF IS professionals and web developers last month. Could you tell us why you decided to fund this initiative?
Robin Wilner (R.W.): IBM has a longstanding record of corporate social responsibility, dating back to our company's inception in 1911. We have historically had a concerted focus on providing assistance to organizations working to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. CDPF is, and has been, conducting effective outreach and programming to help people with disabilities and to significantly improve their lives. IBM has supported the work of CDPF and we were anxious to maximize our partnership and leverage their Web capabilities.
A.L.: How important are web accessibility and digital inclusion in general to your organization?R.W.: In light of IBM's ongoing focus on helping people with disabilities, from both a philanthropic and human resources perspective, Web accessibility and digital inclusion has been a very important part of our programming in recent years. Since 2002, we have made a Web page formatting technology available to schools and nonprofit organizations around the world which enables users to personally customize Web pages for easier reading and more efficient Web navigation. The technology can be used by people with disabilities, as well as seniors, to increase their Web utilization and ensure they can take advantage of the myriad opportunities made possible by the Internet.
A.L.: Which other digital accessibility initiatives would you consider supporting in the future and in which areas of the world?R.W.: We are evaluating technologies related to making enterprise Web sites more accessible, and to insure they meet the appropriate local accessibility standards. The technology would provide guidance to Web page designers and developers, as well as suggested remediation recommendations. Additionally, we may consider projects similar to the CDPF session, for comparable nonprofit organizations.
A.L.: Which aspect of this program did you find most valuable from the perspective of Corporate Citizenship?
R.W.: Engaging with a valued partner, and providing a grant of critical assessment and remediation services around accessibility to reach so many of CDPF's clients is extremely important to us. The objective of IBM's philanthropic initiatives is to strategically focus our best and most valuable resource - - our technologies, especially the innovative solutions that come from our world class research laboratories, and our employee talent and expertise. We apply it against critical societal issues and problems such as education, health, energy and the environment, language/literacy, sustainable and vibrant cities, disaster relief and culture.
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Robin Willner is vice president, global community initiatives, for IBM. Willner joined IBM in 1994 to design and implement Reinventing Education, a unique philanthropic initiative in K-12 school reform. This $75 million global program now includes 25 grant partnerships with school districts and states throughout the nation plus eleven international sites, each focusing on a collaborative effort to develop new applications of technology to overcome common barriers to school improvement and increase student achievement. She oversees a range of philanthropic and volunteer programs, including online mentoring, work force development projects, school-to-career initiatives and other efforts to apply technology to specific societal issues. She also served as project manager for the 2001, 1999, and 1996 National Education Summits, which were co-hosted by IBM, as well as providing the initial planning and startup of Achieve, Inc., the leading national education organization for standards-based reform. Prior to joining IBM, Willner served for three and a half years as executive director for strategic planning/research and development for the New York City Public Schools. She serves on the boards of directors of the National Center for Educational Accountability, Grantmakers for Education, and the Center for Education Policy in Washington, DC. She was a member of the U.S. Department of Education Expert Panel on Educational Technology from 1999-2000. Willner graduated Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia University with a degree in Urban Affairs.