Chieko Asakawa

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Chieko Asakawa
Native name
浅川 智恵子
Osaka, Japan
EducationPh.D. engineering
Alma materUniversity of Tokyo
Scientific career
FieldsComputer science, Accessibility

Chieko Asakawa (浅川 智恵子, Asakawa Chieko) is a blind Japanese computer scientist, known for her work at IBM Research – Tokyo in accessibility.[1] A Netscape browser plug-in which she developed, the IBM Home Page Reader, became the most widely used web-to-speech system available.[2] She is the recipient of numerous industry and government awards.

Education and career[edit]

Asakawa was born with normal sight, but after she injured her optic nerve in a swimming accident at age 11, she began losing her sight, and by age 14 she was fully blind.[1] She earned a bachelor's degree in English literature at Otemon Gakuin University in Osaka in 1982 and then began a two-year computer programming course for blind people using an Optacon to translate print to tactile sensation. She joined IBM Research with a temporary position in 1984,[1] and became a permanent staff researcher there one year later.[1][3] In 2004 she earned a Ph.D. in engineering from the University of Tokyo.[1]


Asakawa's research projects have included developing a word processor for Braille documents, developing a digital library for Braille documents, developing a Netscape browser plug-in that converted text to speech and provided a more convenient web navigation mechanism for blind people, and developing a system that would allow sighted web designers to experience the web as blind people.[1][3][4] Her browser plugin became a 1997 IBM product, the IBM Home Page Reader,[4] and within five years it had become the most widely used web-to-speech system available.[2]

More recently her work has also studied accessible control of multimedia content,[5] technological and social changes that would allow elderly people to work for more years before retiring,[6][7] and the development of technology that would make the physical world more accessible to blind people.[8]

Awards and honors[edit]

Asakawa was added to the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame in 2003.[9] She became an IBM Fellow, IBM's top honor for its employees, in 2009, becoming the fifth Japanese person and first Japanese woman with that honor.[10] In 2011 the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology gave her their Women of Vision Award.[11][12] She was a keynote speaker at the Fourth International Conference on Software Development for Enhancing Accessibility and Fighting Info-exclusion (DSAIE 2012).[7] In 2013 the Japanese government awarded her their Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon.[3] A paper she wrote in 1998 with Takashi Itoh describing their work on web user interfaces for blind people was the winner of the 2013 ACM SIGACCESS Impact Award.[13] In 2017 she was elected as a foreign member of the US National Academy of Engineering.[14]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Strickland, Eliza (January 31, 2012), "Dream Jobs 2012: Web Guru for the Blind; IBM researcher Chieko Asakawa can't see your website, but she can make it better", IEEE Spectrum.
  2. ^ a b Waddell, Cynthia; Regan, Bob; Henry, Shawn Lawton; Burks, Michael R.; Thatcher, Jim; Urban, Mark D.; Bohman, Paul (2003), Constructing Accessible Web Sites, Apress, p. 58, ISBN 9781430211167.
  3. ^ a b c Sciacca, Chris (April 29, 2013), "IBM Fellow Chieko Asakawa awarded Medal of Honor", IBM Research News, IBM Research.
  4. ^ a b Sawaji, Osamu (December 2011), "Yamato Nadeshiko: Pioneering Accessibility", Highlighting Japan, Public Relations Office, Government of Japan.
  5. ^ Weiss, Todd R. (April 2, 2007), "IBM Researcher Aims to Improve Web Access for Visually Impaired", Computerworld: 19.
  6. ^ Shah, Rawn (November 22, 2011), "In a Few Years Nations May Need Us to Work Years Past Retirement Age", Forbes.
  7. ^ a b "Keynote speakers", DSAI 2012, retrieved 2015-08-14.
  8. ^ Calabro, Tina (December 16, 2013), "Breaking Down Barriers: Creating a more disability-friendly city: Use of creative thinking and technology could spark new ways to improve accessibility", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  9. ^ "Featured Profile: Chieko Asakawa, Group Leader, IBM Tokyo, Accessibility Research, IBM", WITI Hall of Fame, Women in Technology International.
  10. ^ IBM researcher Chieko Asakawa awarded prestigious Fellow title, The Maininichi Newspapers, 2009.
  11. ^ Schultz, Morgon Mae (June 2011), "Without Sight, a Visionary Leader: Chieko Asakawa connects disabled users to the Web", IBM Systems Magazine.
  12. ^ Anita Borg Institute Announces 2011 Women of Vision Award Winners, Reuters, March 7, 2011.
  13. ^ Information Director (October 28, 2013), Chieko Asakawa and Takashi Itoh: 2013 Impact Award, SIGACCESS.
  14. ^ Dr. Chieko Asakawa, National Academy of Engineering, retrieved 2018-01-28

External links[edit]