Takaki Yoshimura
2012winners contribution to society
Developing character input support and voice production programs for disabled persons and patients of an intractable disease causing voice loss and offering them for free
Takaki Yoshimura

born: 1965

Award summary

Mr. Yoshimura developed free software wishing that disabled persons and those suffering from intractable diseases to widen their world by using a PC.

Mr. Yoshimura first came in touch with a PC at the hospital where he had a leg surgery when he was 19. It was 1984, the time when he graduated from Nagasaki Prefectural Isahaya School for Physically Handicapped and Mentally Retarded Children (the present Isahaya Special Support School) and was admitted to the School of Education, Bukkyo University Correspondence Division. Although he needed assistance for a variety of work due to his limb and language disabilities caused by cerebral palsy, he was able to use a PC by himself and, furthermore, there was no difference between a software program he created and one created by a non-disabled person. This joy determined the way Mr. Yoshimura led his life.

He learned programming by himself and he released programs one after another which made simple input operations difficult for disabled persons such as simultaneous operation of keys. In 2000, he developed computer accessibility software for disabled persons named "HeartyLadder," which lets you input characters without a keyboard or mouse, and released it on the Internet for free. In the summer of 2011, he added an epoch-making feature called "MyVoice" to his program for patients of an intractable disease who lose their voice with its advance. By recording your voice before you lose it, the program reads the sentence you enter aloud in your voice. He started developing this feature upon request by Mr. Musashi Honma, an occupational therapist working for Tokyo Metropolitan Neurological Hospital, who supports patients of intractable diseases using HeartyLadder. The development took five years.

A commercial voice reproduction software costs about a million yen and requires you to read a certain number of sentences for about half a day. MyVoice, on the other hand, only requires you to record 126 phonemes including those represented by the Japanese syllabary and sonants, which takes about 15 minutes and thus imposes less burden to a user. Although the number of download is unknown according to Yoshimura, people whom Honma helped record their voice alone numbers 87. Yoshimura, however, keeps improving this feature even now thinking, "I am not satisfied with how the program reads out sentences."

"Even those with severe disabilities or suffering from a severe disease can communicate with someone else heartily through a PC. I would like to help them do so." This wish of Mr. Yoshimura, who came to feel his life worthwhile and widened his world through using a PC gives hope to many disabled individuals and patients of intractable diseases.

Reasons for this award

Continuous development of software supporting disabled people's life from their perspective

It is remarkable that he accomplished the difficult development of voice reproduction software in spite of his own disabilities and offers it for free. This is indeed an epoch-making software program created from the perspective of disabled persons and supports the daily life of patients of an intractable disease who have lost their voice. We are also impressed with his way of life: turning his disability into an advantage and contributing to society.

Comments from the winner

I am truly grateful for receiving an award that I do not deserve. It is 13 years since I started developing HeartyLadder. For all these years, I have kept improving it with my colleagues, imagining how users enjoy communication by using this software program. In addition, there are many people who support this program all over Japan, and their existence encourages me. I owe this prize to those supporters (and, of course, my family). I would like to continue developing HeartyLadder and MyVoice with what little ability I have as long as these are needed.