Japanese Studies as a Gateway to Global Accessibility - Tokyo College

Japanese Studies as a Gateway to Global Accessibility


The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games have provided disability activists, policy makers, and other expert practitioners in Japan with opportunities to develop new assistive technologies and display them on the world stage. Such practitioners’ ‘access-making’ activities have served, and likely will continue to serve, as successful models to emulate and cautionary tales about what to avoid for advocates working to improve accessibility in other countries, cultures, and contexts. Which individuals and institutions are involved in localizing accessibility projects from Japan? Why are those entities willing and able to participate in the localization of accessibility projects? How do their actions empower or exclude diverse demographics of disabled people? And can anything be done to streamline the localization process to create a more inclusive society? This project unpacks these questions by analyzing government records, news reports, and activist archives using approaches from history, anthropology, sociology, law, policy, and media studies. Building on previous studies about disability in Japan, which emphasize domestic developments, this project demonstrates how the island nation contributes to international conversations about accessibility by investigating case studies such as caregiving robots in Germany, motorized wheelchairs in Rwanda, screen readers in the Philippines, and non-step transportation in Taiwan. The project explains why the study of disability in global contexts must also include research on Japan, and provides practical advice to architects, engineers, educators, policy makers, members of the public, and other stakeholders interested in creating more accessible societies in the future.

Related Publications

“Creating ‘Disability Publics’ in Postwar Japan (1937­–1957),” Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 50 No. 1 (2024). [Accepted for Publication] “Can the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Spur Change?” The Japan Times (September 6, 2021). “The Coronavirus Crisis: Disability Politics and Activism in Contemporary Japan,” Japan Focus: The Asia–Pacific Journal, Vol. 18 No. 3 (2020), pp. 1–13.


Former Tokyo College Members