Tuesday, September 24, 2013

IBM Fellow Chieko Asakawa Recognized with Japan's Prestigious Medal of Honor

The Japanese government  has awarded the 2013 Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon to IBM Fellow Chieko Asakawa for her outstanding contributions to accessibility research, including the development of a voice browser for the visually impaired.  First awarded in 1955, this medal is given to individuals who have contributed to academic and artistic developments, improvements and accomplishments.

Chieko, who became blind when she was a teenager, put her life experience to work. Her goal: to answer questions like "How can we easily access products and information without using the sense of vision to communicate and interact?" and "What kind of interface will adapt to user needs?" 

Joining the IBM Research Tokyo Lab in 1985, Chieko set out to work on Braille digitization, well before PCs and the Internet were household words. In the late 1980s, she collaborated with Braille libraries and volunteer groups from across Japan to advance the digitization project. The group launched an inter-library Braille network in Japan with the goal of putting Braille books online in 1988. 

Read more about Chieko at IBMResearchNews - her story and her long list of accomplishments as a researcher, inventor, designer, developer, author, and over the past two decades.