RampWEB, a web and software accessibility company

RampWEB Team

Dr. Jim Thatcher

Dr. Jim Thatcher received his PhD from the University of Michigan in 1963, one of the first PhD's in Computer Science. Together with his thesis advisor, Dr. Jesse Wright, Jim then joined the Mathematical Sciences Department of IBM Research, where he stayed until 1996.

His research area was mathematical computer science, including automata theory, semantics, and data abstraction. Jim began moving away from the abstract and toward the practical when he and Dr. Wright, who is blind, started working on an "audio access system" for the IBM Personal Computer, a system for providing on-screen information to a blind user through synthesized voice.

This work culminated in the development of one of the first screen readers for DOS in 1984-85, called IBM Screen Reader. (Such access systems are now known as "screen readers"!) He later led the development of IBM Screen Reader/2, the first screen reader for a graphical user interface on the PC. Jim was intimately involved in the development of IBM Home Page Reader, a talking web browser for the blind and visually impaired.

In 1996 Dr. Thatcher joined the IBM Accessibility Center in Austin , TX , where he led the effort to include accessibility in the IBM development process. A key part of that effort was the establishment of the IBM Accessibility Guidelines specifically for use within IBM's development community.

Jim served as Vice-Chair of the Electronic and Information Technology Access Advisory Committee (EITAAC) which was empanelled by the Access Board to propose standards for Section 508; he chaired the subcommittee on software standards. Later he wrote the course on Web Accessibility for Section 508 for ITTATC, the Information Technology Technical Assistance and Training Center , which was funded in support of Section 508.

Dr. Thatcher received numerous awards for technical work over his 37 year career with IBM. He received a Distinguished Service award from The National Federation of the Blind in 1994 for his work on the screen reader for the Graphical User Interface, and the Vice President's Hammer Award for his work with the Department of Education on the development of Software Accessibility Standards in 1999. Jim retired from IBM in March of 2000, becoming an independent consultant in the area of accessibility.

Jim is co-author of Constructing Accessible Web Sites with Paul Bohman, Michael Burkes, Shawn Lawton Henry, Bob Regan, Sarah Swierenga, Mark D, Urban and Cynthia Waddell, published by Glasshaus , UK , April 2002, published again by Apress, Berkeley , CA , July 2003.


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