Cognitive Computing

The True Meaning of Accessibility

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Have you ever stopped to consider when or why things like braille were invented? Or how braille and audio books open up the world of reading to the visually impaired? Many of us rarely give it a thought.

But to Chieko Asakawa, considering questions like this is her life’s passion, and it carries into her everyday work. She has devoted her life to improving independence for everybody – through technology and inventions.  It was the realization that technology could be an assistant of sorts – to help people with disabilities – that began Chieko’s journey of innovation.  It was the need for a solution that brought forward the technology. Her desire and her own necessity truly sparking these inventions.

Two months ago, at TED@IBM 2015, there wasn’t a dry eye in the theater as Chieko shared her very personal story and how the sequence of life events led to her life’s passion. But as she shared the power of her research and how those ideas have led to amazing inventions to help her discover her independence, I began to realize that she has empowered herself and so many others to actively participate where they might not have been able to before.

Even Chieko did not realize the impact that her desire – and years later, her work – would have on all of us.

On stage at TED@IBM, Chieko shared video of her most-current research project – the cognitive assistant technology which will provide support to visually impaired people to walk on their own, recognize friends and their facial expressions. Soon these cognitive technologies and others like them will help many of us to better understand and interpret our surrounding world.

Chieko’s TED@IBM talk is now featured on TED’s site and can be viewed at this link.

Image of IBM's Dr. Chieko Asakawa and her quote, "Accessibility ignites innovation."

**This article also appeared on the IBM Commerce and IBM Social Business Spotlight blogs.

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