Nov 12, 2020 4:50:27 PM
Q&A with Frances West, Former IBM Chief Accessibility Officer
This month, Diamond had the chance to talk with renowned accessibility expert, Frances West. West’s resume is as extensive as it is impressive. An author, TEDtalk speaker, professor, and advisor, are just a few distinguishing roles given to West over the years, including being IBM’s first Chief Accessibility Officer.
Now, West is the founder of her own company, FrancesWestCo, where she dedicates her time to running a company focused on global technology inclusion. Working with nonprofits, startups, governments, and more, FrancesWestCo is a strategy advisory service that prioritizes human first thinking and accessibility as the framework for successful enterprises. West offers insight to a topic that is finally gaining the attention it deserves.
Diamond: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us, Frances! Let’s start at the beginning. Tell us about your origins in accessibility.
Frances West: I was appointed to head up IBM’s global accessibility organization, responsible for promoting accessibility technology standards, policies with the governments around the world, creating accessible workplace technology innovation for IBM employees, and sharing accessibility technology best practices and solutions with IBM customers.
Diamond: What is the biggest divide between technology and digital accessibility?
Frances West: Technology is being viewed as new, cool and innovative whereas digital accessibility is being viewed as difficult, complex and a complacent topic.
Diamond: What are the most fundamental factors of inclusive digital design?
Frances West: Inclusive design has to have participants with diverse backgrounds, age and ability. Designers have to spend time to get to know not just the design methodology, process but the real people, subjects they are designing for. Spending time to observe, communicate, and learn from users is fundamental.
Diamond: As an advocate for accessibility, what advice would give for those who want to learn more?
Frances West: Accessibility is about extreme personalization. It challenges technologists to really think about and design their solutions from a “human first” perspective. If done right, it delivers the best promise of technology of leveling the playing field and allows all people, not just some to have access to information and knowledge that are critical for personal growth, for employment and for socialization. It can be the most meaningful skill one can have as it impacts humanity.
Diamond: What are the best ways to add alternative content for images and videos over social media?
Frances West: Embedding AI technology to recognize and tag images automatically with easy editor for images and real time speech to text transcription and translation technology with easy editor for video.