Chieko Asakawa

2011 Winner of the ABIE Award for Leadership

Chieko Asakawa is currently an IBM Fellow and the worldwide Chief Technology Officer of Accessibility Research and Technology at IBM Research.

Chieko, an expert on accessibility research and blind since she was fourteen, has focused her work on answering the question: How can information technology help improve the quality of life for everyone? Chieko received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Otemon Gakuin University in 1982 and joined IBM in 1985 after completing the computer science courses for the blind at Lighthouse Japan. While at IBM she earned a Ph.D. in Engineering from the University of Tokyo in 2004. At IBM, her early digital Braille work in the 1980s continues to benefit the blind community in Japan by enabling them to access books.

In 1997, her work on the groundbreaking voice browser called IBM Home Page Reader, which was made available in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, opened up the new information resource of the Web for the blind. Its interface technology has been widely adopted by other voice browsers. With the growth of visual user interfaces and multimedia content on the Internet, she has focused on finding ways for the visually impaired to also enjoy the benefits of these advances.

Chieko and her team have developed a number of pioneering technologies, including a disability simulator called aDesigner, which helps web designers identify potential design issues to make their websites friendlier to all, and aiBrowser, so visually impaired users can access streaming video, animation, and other visual content online. The Accessibility Tools Framework supports standardized design and application programming interfaces, allowing developers to easily and cost effectively create accessibility tools and applications. Chieko has led the Social Accessibility project since 2008. Based on collaboration software, it creates an open, collaborative environment where blind users, developers, and sighted “supporters” work together to solve real life Web accessibility issues encountered by blind users.

She is a Fellow of the Information Processing Society of Japan and a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the Institute of Electronics, the Information and Communication Engineers of Japan, and the IBM Academy of Technology. She supports accessibility-related standards efforts, and she served as a co-general chair for the International Cross-Disciplinary Conference on Web Accessibility 2010. She was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame in 2003 and received highest honor of the Society for the Women Engineers in 2010. Both within and outside of IBM, she has been actively working to help women engineers pursue technical careers. She is currently the leader of COSMOS, a support organization for women in IBM Japan who are working in technical fields. Chieko was appointed an IBM Fellow in 2009, IBM’ s most prestigious technical rank.