- DE&I Initiatives -  Diversity training at Sony/Taiyo for new employees

- DE&I Initiatives -  Diversity training at Sony/Taiyo for new employees

March 22, 2024

Sony's vision is to "continue to deliver Kando and Anshin to people and society around the world through the pursuit of technology and new challenges," and diversity is essential to delivering both emotion and peace of mind. We engage in initiatives of many kinds to strengthen accessibility and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), which we position as pillars of sustainability.

For DE&I in particular, our longstanding emphasis on the diversity of business and employees has driven innovation and fostered a vibrant corporate culture. To pass on Sony's corporate DNA to a new generation of employees, we conducted a DE&I training at Sony/Taiyo Corporation that raised awareness of inclusive design.

In 1978, Sony's founder Masaru Ibuka established Sony/Taiyo in Hiji in the Hayami district of Oita to support the work of Japan Sun Industries (JSI), a social welfare corporation that encourages people with disabilities to play active roles in society. Sony/Taiyo became a special-purpose subsidiary of Sony Group Corporation and a key microphone production site involved in processes from design to production for microphones and headphones. Operations here have also grown to include managing technical and environmental information, performing website tasks, and supporting employment of people with disabilities for the Sony Group.

Marathon wheelchairs on display at JSI. Since 2023,
Sony Corporation has also been awarding products to outstanding athletes at the Oita International Wheelchair Marathon.

The first day of training began with tours of JSI and Sony/Taiyo, followed by a lecture on inclusive design. JSI was founded in 1965 out of a conviction that orthopedic surgeon Yutaka Nakamura felt the year before at the Tokyo Paralympics, where he led the Japanese delegation. After he learned that many visiting athletes also had careers, Dr. Nakamura was further convinced of the importance for people with disabilities in Japan of being active in society as they receive medical treatment. Having seen how effective sports can be, he pursued the same goal by establishing JSI to enable independence through employment. JSI continues to encourage an accurate self-image and self-acceptance by those with disabilities, who lead independent lives here as working members of the community.

Near JSI, there are tactile crosswalks for visually impaired pedestrians and a wheelchair-accessible phone booth

At Sony/Taiyo, Sony's new employees observed the factory floor where Sony/Taiyo employees work. Each employee's needs have been accommodated in the working environment. Among other arrangements, captions are displayed by default for meetings, text can be read aloud for employees with low vision, waveforms can be displayed for headphone sound quality testing by those who are deaf or hard of hearing, and elevated desks and spacious working areas are available for wheelchair users.

Looking on as Sony/Taiyo employees introduce their workplace

The second day featured an inclusive design workshop. Inclusive design invites diverse users into the design process to gain insight from them on their needs, so that the resulting products and services can be used by a broad range of people.

At the inclusive design workshop
Participants doing fieldwork

Ultimately, inclusive design workshops that take this approach encourage a more inclusive society through the insight participants gain as they explore their assigned theme in tasks or conversations as a team with Sony/Taiyo employees who have limited vision, hearing, or mobility. At Sony, employees with disabilities fulfill active roles not only in production but also in product, service, and human resource development, which identifies issues, creates new value, and contributes significantly in Sony's business activities.

Training brought participants out into the streets of Beppu. Based on their assigned theme, new employees accompanied by Sony/Taiyo employees with disabilities made behavioral observations in the field. The fieldwork proved insightful. Contrary to new employees' expectations that some tasks would be difficult for people with disabilities, for example, Sony/Taiyo employees said these tasks were not inconvenient and actually enjoyable. Such mistaken assumptions or preconceptions must be abandoned before we can form an inclusive mindset. On the other hand, participants learned that even sidewalks where pedestrian safety is taken for granted posed hazards for the Sony/Taiyo employees with disabilities. Finding improvements, such as ways to alleviate this stress, will be a topic for further study.

Discussing insight gained through fieldwork
Navigating steps and slopes on a wheelchair

Judging from the comments afterward, the new employees realized that considering others' perspectives leads to empathy and a deeper understanding, which supports DE&I and reveals new values. Some observed that even a little routine awareness of the training topics of diversity and inclusive design would expand their value system and cultural perspective, and they hoped to apply these viewpoints in product design and development. Other participants said they would work toward a future where, in 15 years, inclusive design in the products they oversee had eliminated concerns about product suitability for disabled or non-disabled users. And for others, the training redefined inclusive design from a disability-focused approach to one that was universally essential, because the issues had become more personally relevant.

Sony will continue pressing ahead in creating products with broad appeal and engaging in initiatives that make the world more inclusive.

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