Sunday, April 24, 2016

"I knew Matt King at IBM when......."

A former IBM colleague popped up in the news during the last couple of weeks and he's being touted as Facebook's "first blind engineer."

In 1995, when IBM launched its inaugural Diversity Task Forces during Mr. "Lou" Gerstner's tenure as CEO and chairman, Matt King and I, as well as other disabled and nondisabled IBMers, collaborated on a number of issues pertaining to disability improvements in the workplace. Ted Childs was the head of diversity.

Matt was a brilliant “technologist” and I was a marketing communications executive. We were both passionate, however, about improving the employment possibilities and leadership opportunities for IBMers with disabilities.
Matt_king
Matt King, [from Mashable
 article]
I learned that Matt King joined Facebook last year, soon after I retired from IBM. 

Matt joined IBM in 1998 as a blind programmer. At the time, Matt and I didn't have much in common other than we were both disabled and working at IBM. 

During 1997-98, the disability task force eventually worked on Corporate Instruction 162 at IBM, which outlined the company's mandate and commitment to "accessible technology." The goal was to ensure that every new product -- software and hardware -- that IBM developed or invented, would be accessible, as much as possible, for people with disabilities. CI 162 was announced in 1999.

Circa 2005 and beyond, Matt led a team of technologists that developed a web-based tool called AWC, "Accessible Workplace Connections," which allowed IBMers and their managers to order accessibility tools and workplace accommodations for people who needed this type of support globally. Ron Glover was head of diversity during this period.


The effort was a multimillion dollar project that was supported by IBM's senior management team, including Dr. John Kelly, who was an advisor to the disability task force as well as IBM's top technology executive. The era during which Matt and I worked now seems like the golden years for accessibility at IBM.

I was proud to see Matt recognized recently for his work as it is long overdue. I also believe Matt's new opportunity at Facebook is well-deserved as he will be able to take accessibility to the next level with his new colleagues. 


Matt continues to inspire me and others who applaud his leadership abilities in this very much needed accessibility space. 

Again, my hat is off to Matt King: Matt, may you continue your leadership journey with success as you open up the world of technology to the disabled around the world.

Below are excerpts from two articles I found exceptionally descriptive about Matt's personal and work-life as well as links to articles.

                                     ******* 
From Mashable:
Facebook's first blind engineer is revolutionizing social media as we know it

"As a member of an accessibility team at the world’s largest social network, and one of the few engineers anywhere in Silicon Valley with first-hand experience of blindness, King has the potential to shape the broader conversation and influence products built by other technology companies for the visually impaired."

From USA Today: 

Facebook taps artificial intelligence for users with disabilities

"King was recruited from IBM by Jeff Wieland, who started Facebook's accessibility team five years ago. King, who navigates the sprawling campus with a white cane, says he was taken with Facebook's mission to connect every person on the planet.
 

"I don't think there is any other company in the world where accessibility is that core to the mission, where it's impossible to accomplish the mission without making accessibility great," King says.
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