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Debra Ruh

  Employability & Technology

04/27/2010

Delivering accessible Electronic & Information Technology (E&IT)

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Accessibility Accomplishments are a Marketplace Advantage  Delivering accessible Electronic & Information Technology (E&IT) provides a key differentiator when selling your products and services to all target audiences: commercial businesses, government agencies, educational institutions and not-for-profit organizations. To best leverage your investment in accessibility, implement an end-to-end sales strategy, from market analysis and communication to sales training.  Understand the Market Drivers Since the inception of Section 508, the E&IT industry has made gains in the delivery of accessible products and services.  Industry experts acknowledge that public sector purchasing power holds considerable market weight, spurring the rapid technological advances. “Clearly, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act helped crystallize the government market for accessible E&IT,” said Ken Salaets of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC).  “Before 508, many companies did not focus on the issue because there was no focused market demand.  Section 508 changed that.” A few IT companies’ initial reaction to these laws may have been to view them as the “cost of doing business” with the federal government. Others, such as Canon, HP, IBM, Microsoft, SAS, Peregrine and Thomson NETg—to name just a few we spoke with for this article—took the long view. These visionaries realized that accessibility compliance would benefit a larger population segment: the aging and soon-to-be aged global population of computer users.  They recognized that understanding the needs of disabled and aging users would yield increased revenue and market share, both in the US and globally. These companies use their investment in accessible products and services as a competitive edge to win business every day. They have embraced building accessibility into their products as a good business practice. "We are committed to making sure our IT products -- hardware, software and services -- meet accessibility guidelines. It's a commitment that's good for individuals, good for business, and good for society," said Frances West, director of IBM's Worldwide Accessibility Center. "The ability to meet the specialized needs of our clients who require accessible e-learning in the workplace such as the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Postal Service has resulted in not only deeper and more profitable relationships, but end-users of our products who have been empowered to grow professionally while contributing to the overall success of their organizations," said Joe Dougherty, president of Thomson NETg. Remember to address all aspects of Section 508. Not only must E&IT hardware, telecommunications, and software be accessible, but so must the end-user documentation, technical support, and Web-based resources. Convince your customers that accessibility is an end-to-end commitment, not an add-on.