IBM is pushing its equal opportunities policy but has been hit by anti-discrimination rules in the past
IBM has held an open day at its UK research lab to show young people that having disabilities shouldn’t be a barrier to a future in the tech industry.
Earlier this month, the tech giant hosted an event at its Hursley Lab, in Hampshire, for fourteen 16 to 22 year olds with a wide range of disabilities. The young people met with a group of IBM employees, also with disabilities, in an attempt to show that a career in technology is open to everyone.
“Recruiting the next generation of talent is top of mind for many UK companies” said Jan Gower, executive sponsor, People with Disabilities Council, IBM UK. “At IBM, being inclusive is part of our DNA and we are passionate about ensuring our workforce reflects the market we serve. We are committed to being an employer of choice and to recruiting based on the best people, regardless of age, gender, ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender expression or disability”.
But despite its apparent commitment to being inclusive, IBM has run foul of anti-disability discrimination rules in the past. In 2000, IBM and a technology partner faced a damages claim for failing to make a website they developed for the Sydney Olympic and Paralympic games accessible to disabled users. In 2006, a US federal appeals court ruled in favor of IBM in an age discrimination suit over a change to pension plans.
The Hursley event – organised in cooperation with Treloar’s, a college in Alton for young people with physical disabilities, and disability work charity Enham – saw the young people meet with IBM staff including Ben Fletcher, a master inventor and a RADAR award winner 2008, who has Ushers syndrome.
“The objective of the day was to offer young people with disabilities the chance to meet IBM employees with disabilities”, said Jeremy Knox, Treloar College tutor. “It was a truly inspiring day, in which our young learners were exposed to the latest cutting-edge technologies in an environment that valued the diversity and potential creativity of disabled employees.”
Also present was software engineer and an international basketball player Emlyn Whittick who is also a wheelchair user, and Bob Williams who IBM describes as having “a client relationship role” and is registered blind.
“I was impressed by the assistive technology that IBM provided to it’s disabled employees, it really made it easier for them to do their jobs, despite their disabilities”, stated James Hinks, one of the students who attended the day from Treloar College.
The event was part of IBM’s On Demand Community Challenges where IBM employees volunteer their time for deserving causes.