Group Leader, IBM Tokyo, Accessibility Research, IBM
Inducted in 2003
Chieko Asakawa seeks to improve the lives of the visually impaired by ensuring they have equal access to technology and innovation and challenging traditional thinking about how those with special needs use technology. Blind from the age of 14, she leads by example, demonstrating that the impossible is never out of reach.
Ms. Asakawa is responsible for the research and development of IBM applications that significantly improve web accessibility for the visually impaired and others with special needs. Her contributions include making the Internet and other web resources available by automatically converting text and icons on the screen to voice. She was a key technical leader in the development of the IBM Home Page Reader (HPR), which allows people to surf the web using numeric keypads instead of a mouse. It is now produced in eleven languages and distributed worldwide. She developed a digital Braille system and three key applications, including the Braille Editing System (BES) to allow users to easily input and edit Braille using an ordinary keyboard and monitor. She also developed the Braille Dictionary System and the IBM Braille Forum Network.
Ms. Asakawa is currently researching a system to support web designers who are creating more accessible content through support of personalization features that meet the needs of specific users, including people with disabilities. She is also researching how various types of visual information can be accessed and represented non-visually, using hearing and touch.
Prior to assuming her current role, Ms. Asakawa held research and development positions at the IBM Tokyo Research Lab, developing educational systems and user interfaces. Her inventions have been recognized in five patents, and she has contributed to numerous technical journals and papers. She joined IBM in 1985 and is a member of the IBM Academy of Technology. Ms. Asakawa also teaches at Tsukuba Engineering College, focusing on human interface issues. She is a member of the Institute of Electronics, Information and Communication Engineers of Japan, the Information Processing Society of Japan and the Association for Computing Machinery. She holds a literature degree from Ottemonn University.