IBM Accessibility ODF Coding Challenge 2006

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Today we’re officially announcing the IBM Accessibility ODF Coding Challenge 2006, a contest for university students that combines open standards, open source, and accessibility. Our goal is to train hundreds if not thousands of college software engineering students to create great software that is accessible to all people, right from the start.

IBM Accessibility ODF Coding Challenge 2006 banner

All the work done by the students will be available in open source, so others can innovate on their work and incorporate it in future software. We’re also hoping to see some really new and cool ODF applications that go beyond the current categories of use.

This contest is open in this first phase to students in China, Japan, Canada and the United States. If we’re successful in our goals we hope to have a second phase that includes more geographies. Since the work from phase one will be open source, we’ll be expecting any phase two work to go above and beyond what the students do now. That is: innovation!

This has been in the works for several months now and I’m pretty excited about it. It’s rare we can bring such focus to important areas and help train the next generation of software engineers. As I’ve said before, we’re trying to help the industry move from minimum support for accessibility to really useful, creative, and distinctive experiences and value. Since we’re dealing with OpenDocument Format, we’re also talking about information that can be widely available to everyone.

You can find more information about the contest here. The press release is here. It starts thusly:

ARMONK, NY — (MARKET WIRE) — August 24, 2006 — IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced a program to equip computer science majors at colleges and universities with the technical skills to develop or adapt computer programs for people with disabilities, the maturing population, and non-native language speakers, so that they can more easily access, navigate and use the Web and electronic office documents.

Just in time for the fall semester, IBM is posting a Web-based, lecture available for viewing anytime ( that teaches programming techniques to make electronic documents and the Web more accessible to all users. The lecture also discusses and illustrates the importance of developing software and Web applications that are accessible to all. Professors who lead computer science courses can easily incorporate the material into their curriculum.

As part of the program, IBM is also launching a contest that challenges students to propose and design open source software for people with disabilities. To qualify, their entries must be based on a new international standard, called the OpenDocument Format (ODF). Familiarity with ODF will be increasingly important, as the format will be required by 50 percent of governments and 20 percent of commercial organizations by 2010, according to the Gartner. More information on the contest can be found at

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