Toshiba Group is promoting universal design (UD), in order to contribute to the realization of a society where everyone can live at ease and in comfort, regardless of age, gender and physical ability.
By providing products and services that can satisfy diverse users, Toshiba will contribute to making more comfortable lifestyles and a safer society.
Toshiba Group will further each employee's understanding of the concept of universal design, and will create UD products and services that incorporate user feedback and ideas. We will also promote UD in the workplace.
To promote universal design throughout Toshiba Group, we have established our UD Principle, Vision and Guidelines.
Toshiba Group incorporates UD principles into development and disseminates information about Toshiba's UD both inside and outside the Group.
Toshiba Group has a UD Advisor System in place, in which employees with disabilities and non-Japanese employees are invited to participate. Based on this system, registered employees can contribute to the development and evaluation of UD products, stepping beyond their own department.
Toshiba is developing automatic speech recognition (ASR) and spoken dialog technology. One of their applications is a real-time captioning system using ASR. The system supports hearing-impaired people by enabling them to understand contents of meetings or lectures easily in real-time with auto-generated text. It can be shown on their personal computers, tablets, or projectors in the room, whenever they need it. Toshiba’s unique technology involves automatic detection of word fragments and fillers that are unnecessary words for understanding contents such as “um” and “ah.” By using this technology, we have improved real-time caption readability. The system is used regularly in the actual internal meetings by members of the UD Advisor System to verify its effectiveness. It has also obtained good evaluation from outside of Toshiba as an information accessibility tool at the academic events. The system has been used at social meeting events at Tsukuba University of Technology, which will be introduced in the following activity examples for communication smoothly.
Toshiba develops products in areas as wide-ranging as public facilities, information equipment, and consumer electronics. In doing so, we adopt a human-centered design process that emphasizes users' perspective, and incorporate as many customer needs as possible.
Nishi-Nagoya Thermal Power Station Unit No.7 that has two blocks of multi-shaft combined-cycle power generation systems with three gas turbines and one steam turbine, came on online in March 2018. The Unit No. 7-1 is recognized as the world’s most efficient combined cycle power plant. In addition to providing its leading technological prowess as power generation systems at the facility, Toshiba also contributes to a safe and secure working environment by redesigning the signs inside the building. The colors used for the signs are of different lightness to the base color of the equipment so it can be easily distinguished in the building where there are numerous large machines of the same size and shape. The color scheme was designed to provide diversity in color perception. An easy-to-read font has been employed for the text so that it stands out even from afar. Plates indicating areas inside of the building and stickers on relatively small machinery have been cleverly designed so that they can be distinguished even when the text is partially covered by something. The customer has been impressed with the changes, stating that visibility has improved and it is now easier to discern each piece of equipment thanks to the use of universal design that takes workers into consideration. In this way, Toshiba helps support the safety and security of the state-of-the-art facility.
To spread and promote the use of universal design, Toshiba Group provides information on its own initiatives and the results of its activities and also actively collaborates with outside companies and organizations.
In September 2017, Toshiba held a networking event for five students from the National University Corporation Tsukuba University of Technology, an institution of higher learning for the hearing impaired and the visually impaired.
At the networking event, we introduced case studies of universal design initiatives, accounts of corporate life from hearing-impaired Toshiba Group employees, product design being implemented by young designers, and so on. Students and employees were encouraged to exchange ideas in a workshop style format and there was an active Q&A session. We were thanked at the end by the participating students and their supervising teachers, who said that it had been a valuable opportunity to think about the future.
Discussion at the networking event
Universal design for vacuum cleaners must not only consider their use for diverse people, but also provide stress-free usability in various places. The VC-NX1/NXS1 cordless vacuum cleaner has a vertically symmetrical shape, meaning it can run upside down, relieving users from stressful situations. The main unit is providing value in that it can be used to clean almost anywhere. The universal design, backed by extensive user research, has been proven to be highly effective, culminating in the Silver Award in the IAUD Award 2017 run by International Association for Universal Design (IAUD) in the Product Design category. (The award was won following joint application by Toshiba and Toshiba Lifestyle Products & Services Corporation)
Universal design for irons must consider many factors such as movement and size of hands. The cordless irons in the TA-FLW series have low-wide form with a center of balance positioned for easy lifting. This makes it feel as if one is ironing with their hand, providing value to the user experience. The product gained the IAUD Award in the same Product Design category, and serves as an excellent example of evolution in easy-to-use design. (The award was won following joint application by Toshiba and Toshiba Home Technology Corporation)