Research

My professional interest in disability studies grew out of my personal experiences living in Japan as an American wheelchair user. Each day, I got out of bed with help from a caregiver; left my barrier-free apartment, which an architect designed; and relied on administrators at school and work to prepare accommodations for me. Occasionally, the ‘access-makers’ described above were not present, or their actions not coordinated in such a way as to support me as a disabled foreigner, so I found myself unable to leave home, pursue an education, or achieve employment. My isolation led me to investigate a series of interrelated questions: Why do barriers to accessibility emerge? For whom are they an issue? What kinds of barriers are there? And how can barriers be dismantled? To answer these questions, I set out to explore how stakeholders construct notions of accessibility in Japan by combining frameworks from history, anthropology, sociology, law, and media studies.