Support and Understanding: Helping People with Disabilities
Ease of use for all our customers
Priority Discount, a program that discounts basic monthly charges, etc., is offered to people with special needs to make full use of mobile phones to enrich their communications and boost their participation in social activities. The Priority Discount can be also applied to popular price plans, resulting in benefits including no basic monthly charges for White Plan, and half-rate domestic charges for Video Call in consideration of hearing impaired customers who frequently use the service to communicate using sign language.
Offering easy-to-use services
The Assist Smartphone service was started by SoftBank in March 2014 to help people with special needs participate in society. The service can be used by downloading special software onto the Simple Smartphone SoftBank 204SH (manufactured by Sharp Corporation) and then switching the phone to “Assist Smartphone” mode. As a service for helping people with cognitive and other disabilities to communicate and engage in daily activities, Assist Smartphone has been selected by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare for a fiscal 2013 ministry program aimed at the development and promotion of self-sufficiency support devices for people with special needs.
Through a special website that allows guardians and helpers to configure device settings and provide back-end support, the service makes it possible to check the user's location and change the home screen, select which apps may be used, create email templates, and set destinations for walking navigation based on the user's level of proficiency.
Barrier-free communication for all
SoftBank has a number of initiatives grounded on the principle of fostering a kinder society where there is no communication gap between the hearing impaired and the people they interact with.
Game de Manaberu Shuwa Jiten: a sign language app
Originating from a wish to foster a social environment that enables barrier-free communication for all, SoftBank offers a sign language app called Game de Asoberu Shuwa Jiten (meaning “A Sign Language Dictionary You Can Play as a Game”). The app encompasses approximately 3,000 signs which can be viewed from 360 degrees in 3D animations*1 that are based on actual captured gestures.
The app was developed to promote greater interest in sign language not just for regular users, but also for people who often come into contact with the hearing impaired, such as school teachers and hospitality workers. Through this we aim to help raise people's level of interest in sign language.
This application became the first sign language app to be recommended by the Tokyo Federation of Deaf. In addition, it received the Silver Award at the IAUD Awards 2014 sponsored by the International Association for Universal Design.
- *1A special camera is used to capture the actual movements of a person, and this motion data is applied to 3D characters.
Operating the SoftBank Japanese Sign Language Class
SoftBank operates the SoftBank Sign Language Class, where native signers (hearing-impaired people whose native language is Japanese Sign Language) trained in the theory and practice of linguistic education give fun lessons in Japanese Sign Language, a unique linguistic system differing from the Japanese language. More than 6,900*2 people have taken the class to date.
- *2Total number of participants from April 2004 to March 31, 2016
Sign language counter and video support system
SoftBank Shibuya features a Sign Language Counter where customers with hearing impairments can inquire about mobile handsets and easily handle contract procedures. Sign-language-proficient staff are stationed at the counter and provide guidance on anything from handset choice and operation, to price plans and subscription sign up procedures. Written material is also available for customers who do not use sign language. In December 2010, our Sign Language Support service was launched, providing a video conference system to connect the Sign Language Counter to a further 17 SoftBank stores.
Supporting hearing-impaired people's “Right to Know” through mobile phones
SoftBank is examining how mobile phones and the Internet can help youth with disabilities learn and gain independence. Since fiscal 2008, SoftBank has been lending mobile handsets to the non-profit organization (NPO) Nagano Summarize Center to help them develop an experimental system where interpreters in remote locations summarize the content spoken in public speeches in real time. This content is then displayed on a mobile phone. Through collaborations with universities and NPOs, SoftBank is committed to securing equal rights to information for the hearing impaired (“The Right to Know”)*3 through the expanded use of the Mobile Remote Information Assurance System.
Expanding the use of the Mobile Remote Information Relay System
Since fiscal 2012, with the cooperation of the University of Tsukuba, partner universities and institutions, we have invited universities that wish to be involved with long-distance information assurance, and conducted further experiments of the Mobile Remote Information Assurance System. The knowledge and experience we have gained will be published as a collection of case studies and manuals.
SoftBank is committed to expanding the use of the Mobile Remote Information Assurance System as a means of achieving widespread adoption of an effective long-distance information assurance service.
What is the Mobile Remote Information Assurance System?
When a hearing-impaired person attends a class or other similar event, two interpreters working in concert summarize the speaker's words and add them in the form of captions on a PC screen to create PC captioning. In a conventional system, interpreters use a networked PC, summarize the speech, and type captions on the PC screen. However, because the interpreters need to be present where the PC is located, there are constraints on the places and times the service can be used.
Under the new Mobile Remote Information Assurance System, the interpreters' summary of the speaker's words is entered on a mobile phone and displayed in real-time on other mobile phones. With this new system, interpreters no longer need to be physically present. They can also use the system while on the move, which widens the opportunities for the hearing impaired to obtain information.
- *3Refers to the provision of information by alternative means to ensure equal rights to information
Enabling the inclusion of people with visual impairments
SoftBank offers an app for people with disabilities that teaches them how to use the iPhone. Utilizing the iPhone's “VoiceOver” accessibility function, the app reads out items displayed on-screen, making it possible for users to study and practice basic iPhone operations.Until users get a feel for operating the iPhone and feel comfortable, the app supports and accompanies finger operations and gestures. Lessons are offered on the basics, such as the touch panel range and home button position, Using VoiceOver, users can practice basic gestures, making and receiving calls, and text entry can be practiced. The app makes it possible to advance while listening to easy-to-understand narration.
A mobile phone that anyone can use
Sprint launched a mobile phone in 2013 that is highly accessible for customers with visual impairments, the first such phone made available everywhere in the U.S. The phone is a compact, easy-to-use flip phone with text-to-speech functionality, a high-contrast display, and a tactile keypad.
Sprint also began sales of smartphones preloaded with Accessible Now, the company's proprietary startup wizard. Accessible Now enables blind or visually impaired users to conduct initial settings immediately after purchase using Google TalkBack,*4 a support application from Google for people with visual disabilities. So even with a visual impairment, users can begin operating their mobile phones themselves immediately after purchase, making them much easier to use.
Sprint intends to continue supplying functional mobile devices through close coordination with its partner manufacturers.
- *4Google TalkBack is a trademark or registered trademark of Google Inc.
Creating a work environment that accommodates people with disabilities
Good Design Award 2017
SoftBank Corp. has partnered with the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, the University of Tokyo in the area of assistive technology to introduce a short working hours program that allows people who have difficulty working for long hours due to a disability to work less than 20 hours a week. This new employment program broadens work opportunities for people otherwise willing to work but who have lacked opportunities because they are unable to work the 20 hours a week minimum required for inclusion in the statutory employment rate for people with disabilities. As of October 2017, total 24 people are employed under the program.
Moving ahead, we plan to increase the number of people employed under the program, share related know-how and expertise with other companies and organizations, and help society move toward a stage where it can more readily employ people with disabilities outside the framework of the statutory employment rate.
Sprint Named as One of the Best Places to Work for People with Disabilities
Sprint received a top score of 100 points in the Disability Equality Index survey result in June 2015. This survey is jointly conducted each year by the American Association of People with Disabilities and The U.S. Business Leadership Network® to support companies that actively hire people with disabilities and adopt a progressive stance on their inclusion.
Sprint was awarded the top score for its long-standing commitment toward ensuring that people with disabilities are included in the workplace
Supporting youth with special needs
SoftBank Corp., EDUAS Corp.
SoftBank and the University of Tokyo Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology are jointly carrying out a case study project to utilize mobile device functions to facilitate the learning and social participation of children with cognitive or communicative impairments. The project explores the potential of mobile devices as a means of communication and cognition based on studies such as those in which children with difficulty in verbal communication were able to communicate with text on a mobile device display, or developed an understanding of the abstract concept of time and the meaning of “hold on a second” by studying a picture of a clock timer on a mobile device.
This project is jointly promoted by SoftBank, the University of Tokyo Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, EDUAS, an education business operator in the SoftBank Group, and e-AT Association, an NPO corporation. The results from the project are available on the Magic Lamp Project website.
Through the use of mobile devices, children are able to do things that they previously could not, raising their level of motivation. We intend to expand our activities to enable the children to discover even more of their inherent capabilities.
About the name of the project
A mobile phone packed with various features that assist children with disabilities to learn and participate in society can seem like a magical object. The Magic Lamp Project took its name from this. The name Aki-chan (used in the Aki-Chan's Magic Pocket and Aki-Chan's Magic Pen Case projects) is taken from a real-life high-school student who had trouble communicating through speech. The project evolved through Aki-chan's use of electronic tools to communicate and is based on the actual experiences of Kenryu Nakamura, a professor at University of Tokyo Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology.
Supporting a university experimental program for youth with special needs
SoftBank Corp., EDUAS Corp.
Since 2007, SoftBank has been supporting DO-IT Japan, a university experimental program (run by the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology) using computer and IT equipment to help youth with special needs enter university and find employment.
In fiscal 2011, the DO-IT Japan program for elementary school students using iPads was implemented. The program is co-sponsored by EDUAS of the SoftBank Group.
This program invites elementary school students who are experiencing difficulty in reading and writing to experience learning using an iPad, together with their parents, and to help them gain a better understanding of the kinds of support tools that DO-IT Japan offers.
SoftBank will continue to support communication for participants with special needs or those who are suffering from illness, and to foster openness and diversity by identifying barriers in society.
Offering everyone the discovery of town walks and tourism
In March 2013, SoftBank added a service that provides information about barrier-free tourism to the Furatto An-nai (Tourist Guide) application, using GPS positioning data to prompt it to provide local sightseeing information. Our goal is to help individuals with special needs maximize their sightseeing experience. As a first step, with the cooperation of the NPO Japan Barrier-Free Tourism Promotion Organization, we launched a service called Barrier-free Tourism in Iseshima, Mie Prefecture. In the future, we plan to expand the coverage area of the Furatto An-nai (Tourist Guide)*5 application and offer barrier-free tourism information for more and more locations.
- *5Furatto An-nai (Tourist Guide) is a free app that provides barrier-free service information for tourists. Downloading the application may incur separate communication charges.