The Great Way, The Great Together

Post re-blogged with permission from Frances West

Today is July the 7th, the 7th day that I have retired from IBM, after 37 years. All my family and friends have told me to sit back, relax and to let retirement settle in so I can have a chance to reflect. So as I was busily turning in my IBM computer and badge and signing up for tennis and Flamenco dancing lessons, the last thing I expected to have is an epiphany about why I have been so passionate about being IBM’s Chief Accessibility Officer.

Many people know that when I took the accessibility job at IBM 13 years ago, I knew nothing about it.

And yet, over time, I became a passionate advocate. People would ask me why, and I usually had to make up an answer. Sometimes I would lean towards a more philosophical answer such as “accessibility is a technology made human topic that any good and innovative company should explore ” or a softer, more humanistic answer such as “being a first generation female minority, I understand the human rights issue and can empathize with the need to be included”.

People usually were quite satisfied with these answers and thought not to ask any more questions. At the same time, I was secretly happy that they were happy with what I would say, because if they were to have dug deeper they would have found that as good as these answers were, they did not quite speak the truth. There was an organic reason that was missing.

The missing link finally came to me the other day as I was thinking about brushing up (literally) on my Chinese calligraphy, another retirement activity I want to do. As I was sorting through famous ancient Chinese articles that can be used as calligraphy models, I came across an essay by Confucius entitled, “The Great Way or the Great Together”.

In this essay, he speaks about the ultimate society as one that belongs to the public. In that society, every person has his or her place and everybody is cared for, no matter what the person’s ability. This Confucian philosophy is imparted to all children growing up in
Taiwan, my birthplace, and has lived in my unconscious all these years.

So when the accessibility initiative, based on equal access for all became my job and responsibility, it awakened in me this innate desire to build a society, a world that can bring everybody together.

It is with this simple and yet time-tested principle of life that I am inspired to continue the work on accessibility after retiring from IBM.

It is the Great Way of bringing not just some but all of us Together.

How can one ever stop doing that?

Follow Frances on Twitter at @fwest34

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