Shaping and Shifting
Cultural Perceptions of
Chair: Ashley Holben,
Mobility International USA
Presenters: Mark Bookman,
CIEE Alumnus; Dr. Kirsten
Diverse Cultural Views on Disability
Can Traveling with a Disability Challenge Perceptions?
“People with disabilities in
that community [in rural
Ecuador] often stay at home,
but here was this person,
getting his health needs met
while out experiencing the
world. It really changed their
mindset. That, to me, is
citizen diplomacy.” – Global
Citizens Network director
Different Culture, Different Attitudes
• Isn't the customer always right?
• Unwillingness to accommodate
• Recognizing legitimacy of disability
• Intrusive staring or questions
• Unsolicited help
• Emphasizing other identities
• Expectations of independence
Remind Your Students…
• ALL travelers experience
• Potential to challenge
• Opportunity to grow
• Cultural connections create
• Be open to positive experiences
• Safety comes first – offer
Adjusting to a New Place
How might other aspects of culture have an impact on a
student with a disability?
• Time and punctuality
• Different place, different pace!
• Leisure and schedules
• Siestas/resting, lingering meals and conversations
• Body language
• Eye contact
• Rituals and Routines
“I was very comfortable [in
Japan] – for some reason, the
cultural structure is less
intimidating. You know what is
expected of you in Japan. It’s a
more ritualistic society, and
people with autism can be
ritualistic. I knew the basic
culture was family-oriented, so I
could follow their structure.”
- Ted Koehler, U.S. student to
Create a Culture of Inclusion!
• Partner agreements
• Dispel negative assumptions
• Seek out champions of inclusion
• Leverage culture values
What have you found to be
Services and Resources from MIUSA
• Free advising
•Webinars and events
Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department
Visit www.miusa.org for…
• Tips for traveling with a disability
• Resources for students & professionals
• Traveler stories
• E-newsletter sign-up
Popular Resources for Advisors & Intl. Educators
• Showing Respect by Being Direct
• Accommodations Assessment Forms & Guidelines
When Can We Ask
Resources and Stories Specific To…
• Autism Spectrum
• Blind & Low Vision
• Chronic Health Conditions
• Deaf & Hard of Hearing
• Learning Disabilities
• Mental Health Conditions
• Physical Disabilities
Add to our resources: Share your travel tips and stories!
Build on Your Knowledge!
Session: “Incorporating Universal Design Concepts Into
Study Abroad” – Today @ 3:45 pm in Salon I & II
Session: “Technological Barriers & Moving Towards Fully
Accessible Website & Materials” – Tomorrow @ 10:15 am
IIE Generation Study Abroad Webinar: “Disability-
Inclusion Best Practices and National Trends” - December
2 @ 3:00 pm Eastern - ow.ly/EDmJg
MIUSA E-news: Updates on future trainings & webinars
Committing to Inclusion
CIEE pledges 25 full scholarships for
students with disabilities in 2015!
Thrice in Japan
CIEE Alumnus Mark Bookman Shares His Story
A Brief History of “Barrier-Free” in Japan
• Late 1980s: The term “Barrier-Free” becomes a popular
• 2009: 3.6 million people estimated to have a physical
• 1993: Fundamental Law for Disabled Persons sets in
motion measures to advance Barrier-Free Agenda,
• 1996: Action Plan for Priority Areas
• 2003: Basic Plan for Persons with Disability 
Barrier Free vs. Americans with Disabilities Act
Fundamental Law for Disabled
Americans with Disabilities Act
Est. 1993 Est. 1990
• Establishes fundamental
principles and measures for
• Designates public
• Promotes the independence
and full participation of disabled
• Ensures equal opportunity for
persons with disabilities in areas
such as employment,
government services, and
• Guaranteeing public and
commercial facilities as being
• Prohibits discrimination 
“Barrier-Free” Translation from Theory to Praxis
Ideological and legal differences between Japan and
Differences in terms of private resource allocation
Gap in adequate care coverage for
Foreign students face a particular
challenge. Why? Consider the
Permanent vs. Temporary Residence
• Differences in assistive devices across cultures
• Accessible housing is difficult to locate, often requires
long-term contract and increased security deposit
• Long-term residents with disabilities outfit their living
spaces to meet their unique needs, an expensive and
• No one may apply for “介護” (Kaigo), or Care Services
until after at least one year of living in Japan
An Overview of My Experiences
I have studied in Japan on three separate occasions with
three distinct levels of severity in disability:
• 1) Waseda University: For 2 months during the summer of
2008. I walked with a limp and did not require the use of a
• 2) Sophia University: For 5 months during the spring of
2013. I used a wheelchair but could stand independently.
• 3) Toyo University: For 10 months starting in September
2014. I use a wheelchair and am unable to stand
Waseda University (2008)
• Same opportunity to
experience Japan as any
other study abroad student
(albeit at a slower pace)
• I was often able to scale
staircases to access those
inaccessible to me
Yes, you CAN!
Tokyo Study Center
1. Preparation 電動式車椅子
2. Arrival & orientation 電動車椅子
3. Semester 車椅子Mark
4. Aftermath Mark Fulbright Fellow
1. March 5, 2012 – General Inquiry
2. Accommodation search, general research,
discussions, lists, and more lists
3. Sept 18, 2012 - reserved dorm room through
4. October 3 - received preliminary information
• Questions to ask (First Skype conversation 12/21/12)
• Height when seated in his power chair?
• Power-charging voltage needed? 2 or 3-pronged plug?
• Do feet extend beyond the chair when seated? What is
the length including feet?
• When could he move into the dorm?
• Length of contract?
• More Questions to ask
• Hiring another Sophia student to do his laundry/ provide
help if needed/ push when using manual wheelchair?
• Dimensions of manual chair?
• Will airlines transport one chair free? If not, get estimates
• Also for second chair. Bettter to hire in Japan?
• (4 typed pages of Questions & A)
• Width – 25.5 in/ 65 cm
• Length – 42.9 in/ 109 cm
•Weight – 260 lbs/ 118 kg
• Chair is rather “spider-like” with 2 center wheels for
torque, as well as a pair of front and back wheels, like
training wheels – turns “on a dime” – long and narrow
compared with regular, manual wheelchairs – has one
joystick hand control, so Mark uses an umbrella in rainy
ARRIVAL & ORIENTATION
MODIFIED SCHEDULE (1)
• Started with full student schedule
• Then modified for Mark
Day Date Time Place Event Items Remarks
16:50 NRT Mark Bookman's arrival
Arriving at 16:50 with DL173 (Delta Air Lines) at
Terminal 1 North
Dr. Kirsten Jensen meet MB (and the van driver)
Ship luggage to Edagawa dorm so it will be delivered
Driver: (Asami-san, 090-1540-3418) will meet KJ at
Inform him of SoftBank
c. 19:00 Mitsui Garden Hotel Check-in
Mitsui Garden Hotel MB Breakfast at hotel restaurant (1F Salvatore
Entrance from hotel lobby is
flat but vould be difficult to
turn corners. Hotel staff will
help this and getting food
from buffet table as well.
10:00 Hotel Lobby Darren Biggs (CIEE student assistant) meet MB to
escourt to Study Center
10:30 - 12:00 Study Center MB: SoftBank prepaid phone purchase
(Staff can fill out the form for him. MB to pay 6,000
Orientation with Dr. Jensen and Hiroko Watanabe
MB Passport copy
12:00 - 14:00 Lunch
(Go back to hotel if wish)
14:30 - 16:00 Sophia Offices MB Meeting with relevant Sophia offices
(Academics, Student Affairs, FLA, ISO, Health Center,
With other students as
much as possible
MODIFIED SCHEDULE (2)
Date Time Place Events/Sessions Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Mar 27 Wed
14:00 - 18:00 Narita Int'l Airport Arrival Day Welcome to Japan!
Stay at Narita Tobu Hotel 【Address: Narita Tobu Hotel, 320-1 Tokko, Narita-shi, 286-0106 , Tel: 0476-32-1234】
Mar 28 Thu
6:00 - 8:00 Narita Tobu Hotel (1F)
8:30 - 10:45
Hotel Meeting Room
CIEE Orientation 1 (Welcome Meeting) - Official Program Opening
11:00 - 15:50
Travel to Tokyo by chartered bus
Including stop for CIEE Welcome Lunch in Odaiba (Tokyo Bay area) and tour of central Tokyo
16:00 - 17:00 Study Center SoftBank prepaid phone sign-up and payment
Check-in to the Green Palace Hotel 【Address: 2 Niban-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-0084, Tel: 03-5210-4600】
Mar 29 Fri
7:00 - 8:30 Green Palace Hotel Buffet Breakfast
Hotel Stipend n/a
8:45 Hotel lobby Check-out and meet Dr. J.
Tokyo Medical Surgical
Doctor's appointment at 9:40 a.m. with Dr. J.
11:30 - 12:30 Sophia Campus Campus Tour and lunch at cafeteria with senpai students.
13:30 North Gate Meet staff (You are included in the Homestay students group.)
14:45 - 16:30 Ikebukuro Bosaikan
Earthquake simulation and other training at Life Safety Learning Center
Return home (Sophia Edagawa Dorm) on own
Mar 30 Sat All Day Free (Other students have required events, but you are not required to come to campus.) n/a n/a n/a
• Physical barriers
• Lack of experience
• Academic policies
• Good will
• Removed if possible
• Willing to learn
• Understood if explained
• Some flexibility – not stated
BULLET TRAIN and HIRODEN
• Confidence in assisting students with disabilities
• Knowledge of disabilities in Japan, especially in an
• Mark’s graduation and Fulbright Fellowship – trailblazing!
•Fulbright Commission asked CIEE for advice
• A new journey for Mark – not all positive – but he had also
gained knowledge, confidence, patience, resourcefulness
A NEW ADVENTURE!
WHAT WE LEARNED
• Academic accommodations / learning disabilities-relatively
new fields in Japan
• Clarify and specify exact needs of students requiring
• Host university is eager to learn from us
• No separate Office of Disabilities/Accommodations
• Caution! Accommodations Letters & wrong assumptions
Sophia University (2013)
• For the first time, I became
very aware of the
inaccessibility of many
buildings in Japan
• Many private
establishments were not
accessible to me lest I leave
my wheelchair outside and
go in with the help of a
Toyo University (2014)
• Accessibility was a challenge
not just outside the home,
but inside as well, especially:
• 玄関(Genkan), or Japanese
• 風呂（Furo), Japanese-style
baths, toilets, beds, etc.
Access Abroad: General Considerations
1. Access to Academic Facilities
2. Access to Specialty Medical Facilities
3. Access to Living Facilities and Accommodations
4. Health Insurance: Both Domestic and International
5. Customs Clearance for Medical Devices & Medications
6. Access to Transportation Services
7. Developing of an Emergency Plan
8. Establishing Assistive Services
9. Overcoming Language Barriers
10.Modified Outreach Events and Services
• ‘Accommodation’ occurs in the liminal space between the
disabled individuals’ psyche, their physical capabilities,
and the resources of the study abroad program.
• Prior to studying abroad the student is often not aware of
the cultural idiosyncrasies with regard to accessibility.
Take the opportunity to discuss how flexible each party
(the student, the program, the overseas partner, etc.) is
willing to be.
Global Conceptions of Disability: Bane or Boon?
Above all, the study abroad
program should do all they can to
promote disability abroad as a
‘Boon’ and not a ‘Bane’.
Questions for us?
Project Coordinator, Mobility International USA
Dr. Kirsten Jensen
Center Director in Tokyo, CIEE
As of 2009, the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare estimated that approximately 3.6 million people residing in Japan have some sort of physical disability.1
“Barrier-Free” is a term which was popularized in the late 1980’s in Japan that may be defined as the removal of barriers that otherwise inhibit daily living so as to foster a healthy and safe living environment for all persons.2
The Japanese government has set in place multiple initiates to advance the Barrier-Free agenda, which was formally laid out in the Fundamental Law for Disabled Persons (1993). Amongst these measures are the Action Plan for Priority Areas (1996) and the Basic Plan for Persons with Disability (2003).3
The Fundamental Law for Disabled Persons (1993) aims “to establish the fundamental principles regarding measures for disabled persons, designate the responsibilities of the State and local public entities and clarify matters to form the basis of said measures, in order to comprehensively and systematically promote measures for disabled persons and thereby to promote the independence of disabled persons and their full participation in social, economic, cultural, and other area of activity.”4
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) “prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, State and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation.”5
The ideological and legal schism found between Japan and the United States regarding the nature of disability, which may be qualified in terms of private resource allocation, has generated a lacuna in the adequate care of many persons with disabilities. This gap in coverage has a particularly profound impact upon foreign students who intend to study and/or conduct research in Japan for less than one year’s time. As for why this is the case, consider the following…
Differences in assistive devices across cultures may result in an inability to locate adequate housing and, should such housing be located, it often requires a minimum 2-year contract and additional security deposit due to an increased risk for potential damages.
Disabled individuals who have resided in Japan for extended periods of time often have outfitted their living accommodations to meet their unique requirements. This process is often quite expensive and time consuming and therefore not a viable alternative for disabled students from abroad who wish to study in Japan.
Disabled individuals may not apply for “介護” (Kaigo), or Care Services, unless they have already resided in Japan for one year’s time prior to their application.
Waseda University (2008)
My time at Waseda University afforded me with the opportunity to experience Japan as any other study abroad student might, albeit at a slower pace. At that time I was often able to scale staircases to access those places otherwise inaccessible to me, such as the bathroom in this particular restaurant.
My time at Sophia University brought to my attention for the first time the inaccessibility of many buildings in Japan. I was to discover that many private establishments, such as that pictured on the right, were wholly inaccessible to me lest I leave my wheelchair outside and hobble indoors with the help of a friend.
My experience of Japan during my tenure at Toyo University has, thus far, yielded a great degree of frustration and room for improvement. I quickly discovered that the various places I required access to were not only outside the home but inside as well. Negotiating 玄関 (Genkan), or Japanese style entryways, became quite difficult, as did entering and exiting 風呂（Furo), Japanese-style baths, toilets, beds, etc.
‘Accommodation’ occurs in the liminal space between the disabled individuals’ psyche, their physical capabilities, and the resources of the study abroad program. As such, ‘Accommodation’ may be seen as a necessarily cooperative venture.
Prior to studying abroad the student is often not aware of all cultural idiosyncrasies with regard to accessibility…the range of flexibility each party is capable of exhibiting should be discussed prior to studying abroad.
Above all, the study abroad program should do all they can to promote disability abroad as a ‘Boon’ and not a ‘Bane’.