New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) Commissioner Robert Walsh today announced the generous donation from IBM of software technology that will better enable elderly, disabled and limited English-proficiency jobseekers to access the internet at the City’s Workforce1 Career Centers. For the Workforce1 Career Center in Downtown Brooklyn, IBM has provided access for 350 individuals to use its Web Adaptation Technology as part of a pilot effort that will eventually grow to 1,000 users in Centers throughout the five boroughs.
“When the Mayor linked workforce and economic development two years ago by merging the former Department of Employment with SBS, we began a dynamic and enduring overhaul of the City's job training and placement programs,” said Commissioner Walsh. “A big part of this effort has been to make our services more accessible to all New Yorkers through the Workforce1 Career Centers. IBM’s donation will go a long way in assisting our efforts to better serve all of the City’s jobseekers and represents a true commitment on their part to improving the lives of New Yorkers looking for work.”
“SBS and the City’s Workforce1 Career Centers have been great partners in the implementation of this new accessibility software,” said IBM’s Manager of Corporate Community Relations Martin Laird. “We developed this technology in order to change the way people access the web. Through the Workforce1 Career Centers, this new technology is able to reach a critical audience – providing people with disabilities and those with limited English skills access to the internet and to new opportunities.”
Web Adaptation Technology is innovative software designed and donated by IBM that makes the internet more accessible to seniors, people with disabilities and those who speak English as a second language. The program represents a milestone in the development of easy-to-use technology that enables people to customize the web in ways that work best for them. The technology has the ability to instantly translate web pages into six different languages: Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Mandarin and Italian. Other specialized features, created by scientists at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, assists people with low vision by enabling them to, among other things, turn off animation and sharpen images to greatly improve readability. People who have difficulty typing with accuracy—those with tremors, arthritis, or recovering from a stroke—typically hold down keys too long or double-click letters, making it difficult to use the internet. Web Adaptation Technology samples an individual’s typing, detects the errors and automatically adjusts the keyboard sensitivity to accommodate different typing styles.
Operated in coordination with the New York State Department of Labor and the City University of New York, Workforce1 Career Centers provide jobseekers with a full array of employment services including job placement, career advisement, job search counseling and skills training. The Centers are co-located with NYC Business Solutions Centers, which provide businesses with access to skilled labor through customized recruitment and training initiatives tailored to a company’s specific needs. Since their creation in 2004, over 100,000 jobseekers have visited Workforce1 Career Centers in every borough of New York City. With this new technology, the Centers hope to attract and serve a greater population of jobseekers. More information on these programs is available by calling 311 and asking for Workforce1 Career Centers or visiting www.nyc.gov/workforce1.