Michael Takemura Director, HP Accessibility Program Office
Michael Takemura, director of the HP Accessibility Program Office, is responsible for developing and implementing the strategy for HP’s accessibility efforts. This office guides corporate-wide accessibility in product design, engineering, product development, marketing, web, services, support and programs for persons with disabilities.
Takemura is a frequent speaker representing HP and the information technology industry on global information technology accessibility issues. He is serving as co-convenor of the JTC1 Special Working Group on Accessibility Task Group on User Requirements. He also represents the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) on the U.S. Access Board Telecommunications and Electronic Information Technology Advisory Council (TEITAC). He serves as a Director on the Advisory Board for California State University at Northridge – Center on Disabilities (CSUN-COD), and is a member of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) Accessibility Committee, and the National Spinal Cord Injury Association (NSCIA) Business Advisory Council. He has served on the Board of Directors for the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) where he served as Vice President. In 2005, he was named one of Careers & disABLED Magazine’s Employees of the Year, for his professional and advocacy efforts on behalf of people with disabilities in the workplace. Takemura has been in the technology industry for over 19 years, representing HP/Compaq for more than 15 years, with strategic roles in the marketing and sales organizations.
He resides in Houston Texas where he is an active member in his church, making annual visits to Mexico and Costa Rica working with disadvantaged children. Michael attended Creighton University, earning a degree in Organizational Communications. He was interviewed by Assistive Technology News' writer John M. Williams.
Williams: What are the internal and external hurdles HP faces as it develops products that can be used by everyone?
Takemura: The most significant internal hurdle is educating everyone about the personal impact this can have, not only on them and on their lives, but the pervasiveness of that impact on our customers and on other employees. It comes down to general awareness. Not just at HP, but at any company. If the need for accessibility hasn’t overtly impacted them personally, or someone in their family, it probably hasn’t crossed their mind. I’ve found that once people “get it” they embrace the opportunity and challenge with a passion.
The other challenge that I think HP and companies both in the technology industry and in other industries face is to turn these user needs into concrete design standards. Engineers want black and white. Tell me how I can design a product that I know is going to be accessible. A product or service is never going to be 100% accessible to everyone, all of the time. We’re dealing with real people, that have millions of combinations of abilities and limitations that affect how they interact with products. Add to that the challenge of the environment in which they are using the product, and now you have billions of combinations. We have to ask ourselves: Is this product or service accessible to whom? Doing what? In what circumstances? Sometimes that can be a simple design change. Other times that requires training. Still other times it may require partnerships – or any combination of those. It can be high tech or it can be low tech. It’s not a simple process with simple answers – nor do we ever arrive and say, “yes, we’ve made something completely accessible”. The beauty is that it allows for creativity and innovation and allows our employees to address the never-ending challenge to identify how we can make a product, service or web site easier to use and simple to access.
For HP, marketing and awareness of this to our customers and partners is not as much of a challenge. In fact, I think HP’s new advertising campaign, “The computer is personal again,” really ties into the importance of accessibility -- whether it’s ergonomic design for older users, accessibility for people with disabilities, or just ease of use for everyone. The increasing aging population, in particular, has really driven general awareness for the importance and benefits of accessible design.
Williams: Is it more costly to develop accessibility features as new products are being developed?
Takemura: It can be. In some cases, there can be an additional cost, particularly when technologies are new. Though, with economies of scale, product costs continue to come down. At HP, we’ve actually found that as we develop products that are more accessible, it can actually reduce cost. A good case in point is when we went from a dual latch on our notebook computers to a single latch. It made our notebooks easier to open and operate with a single hand, and it also made the product less expensive to produce and more reliable with fewer points of failure. If we build “ramps”, “curb cuts” or wider doors into technology in the beginning of the design process, instead of retrofitting the product later, you can reduce product costs. One ongoing challenge I hear from customers is the high cost of third party assistive technologies. That’s why HP supports these companies in the development and marketing of their products through our Developer Solutions Partner Program (DSPP). By helping to promote and unify industry standards, we help to reduce the cost of and time to market for important assistive technology innovations.
Williams: Tell us about targeting older users?
Takemura: The statistics really tell the story here. In countries around the world, the percentage of people over the age of 65 is rapidly increasingly. Without exception 100 percent of us are growing older every day, including me! We see the aging “baby boomer” market, in particular, as a significant opportunity of new revenue. We see that opportunity at HP, and many of our government customers as well as large multi-national customers in industries ranging from banks, travel and hospitality, insurance, and consumer goods are looking at how they can compete for the billions of dollars people 45-50 and older are going to spend in the next decade.
I find that there are two segments of older users; one group represents those that are comfortable with technology, and have used it at home and at work. They want to continue using technology products, but because of the limitations imposed on them from the aging process, they want them easier to use – things like larger keys and displays, and simple, intuitive interfaces. The second group is those who have little if any experience using technology and may not recognize the benefits these products can have on improving their lives. If we view our customers through these two lenses, we can identify opportunities and partnerships to create products and solutions that meet the personal needs of each person.
Finally, the global workforce is also getting older, and organizations – whether public or private – need to ensure that they are meeting the needs of their workforce and keeping their people productive. Accessible products can help do that, and HP is pleased to be able to offer them.
Williams: What are some of the unique accessibility features in HP's products?
Takemura: AT HP we’ve incorporated accessibility into the design process, so just as we look at quality, security, privacy and the environmental impact of our products, we also work to ensure that our products are accessible. In addition to the notebook single latch example I mentioned earlier, we also offer printers with touch-sensitive displays for users with low vision. Most recently, we’ve been shipping a dual-hinge flat panel display. Our new dual-hinge displays are designed to go lower to the desk, which is helpful for users with bi-focal lenses or users who may need different height adjustment settings because they use a wheelchair. HP offers products that support Microsoft Windows accessibility features. We recognize that no product is every going to be 100% accessible to 100% of the population. That is why our close partnership with the world’s leading assistive technology companies helps ensure the compatibility of our products with these important devices and programs.
For our government customers, we provide detailed information through our voluntary product accessibility template (VPAT) database. HP was one of the first technology companies to have the accessibility features of its products documented and available online in this way. This helps public sector customers around the world comply with relevant accessibility requirements and streamline their procurement process.
Williams: Are market forces driving HP to develop accessible features in your products?
Takemura: I believe there are three primary drivers. First is the movement are the push toward “e-everything.” For example, e-government, e-commerce, e-learning. This has resulted in legislative, regulatory and standards requirements that these “e” services and information, both public and private, be available to everyone regardless of their disabilities or age-related limitations.
Second, is the significant and growing number of people who have disabilities or are graying. There are already more than 500 million people with disabilities gaining recognition as a significant and growing market for products and services, and this group is increasingly making their needs and expectations known. The “gray” market in particular has tremendous purchasing power. Couple that power with this group’s demand for the latest and greatest technologies to make life better, simpler, safer and smarter, and you have a huge driver for companies like HP.
Third, is the growing sensitivity to accessibility among our large customers, both public and private. They are building accessibility requirements into their procurements and bid processes. For example, we’re seeing large multinational customers who need to ensure they have accessible Web sites. These customers, in turn, are looking to extend their revenue share by addressing this large and growing market through technology. This drives their need for accessible solutions. Additionally, these companies are looking for solutions to keep their aging workforce productive.