ICI Hosts Japanese Delegation for Training in Boston (MA UCEDD/LEND)

December 12, 2018

In late October, the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) at the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMass Boston) hosted a delegation of disability and career services professionals from 3 Japanese universities: Kyoto University, Wakayama University, and Tsukuba University. The Japanese professionals came to Boston for training on how to serve students with disabilities in higher education, with a focus on career and employment.

The training, called the Leadership Institute on Serving Students with Disabilities in Japan, is in its third year. It is sponsored by the Nippon Foundation of Japan.  http://www.communityinclusion.org/nippon-en

The 6 trainees, 2 from each university, took part in an intensive one-week training in Boston that included site visits to the disability services offices at Northeastern University, Bridgewater State University, and Massasoit Community College. They also met with a disability services staff member from UMass Amherst and an expert in Universal Design for Learning from CAST, the Center for Applied Special Technology.

At Northeastern University, trainees learned about and observed first-hand effective strategies and best practices in postsecondary disability and career services delivery, and in coordinating services with the university's co-operative education (co-op) program and other on-campus partners.

A highlight of the site visit was a meeting with Northeastern students who are receiving disability support. Many of these students have completed or are preparing for their co-op experience, a 6-month full-time paid internship with an employer in a field related to each student's area of study.  

"Our students with disabilities face the same challenges as other undergraduates going through the co-op process," said Mary Barrows, the senior director of the Disability Resource Center at Northeastern. "It's all about figuring out each person's strengths, weaknesses, and interests, and finding a placement where they can thrive and be challenged--with whatever supports may be needed."

At Bridgewater State University, the trainees learned about activities and practices that support self-advocacy in students with disabilities. The Japanese professionals were especially pleased to meet some of the peer mentors and mentees, all of whom are students with disabilities, at Bridgewater State.

Before coming to Boston, trainees participated in a series of webinars that provided them with a foundation in disability, higher education, and workforce development legislation and policy in the US and Japan, as well as key issues and practices in postsecondary education.  

In preparation for the Boston training, each university team identified 3-4 issues in disability and career services at their institution that need improvement. Throughout the training in Boston, teams worked on an action plan (with guidance from program staff and the Japanese program adviser) that they then presented to the larger group on the last day of the training.  

University teams are expected to implement their action plans over the next 6 months. ICI staff will track the universities' progress while also providing additional training, technical assistance, and support in conjunction with the Japanese program adviser and AHEAD Japan.

Reflecting on the experience in Boston, a participant said, "There is a lot that I gained from the training: transition, self-advocacy, accommodations, documentation, mentoring, AT [assistive technology], resource mapping, etc. ... It was significant for me personally to learn about 'why it is being done' in addition to 'what is being done.'"

Another trainee explained, "I was able to understand self-advocacy experientially, and I learned what 'student-centered support' means, including career transition, through various lectures and visits to universities. Having heard from students with disabilities at site visits, I first thought advocacy was different in the U.S. from what it is like Japan, but I realized that we can overcome our cultural differences."

For more information about the program, contact:

Dr. Heike Boeltzig-Brown, Program Director, ICI / UMass Boston [email protected]  


Photo Caption:
Staff from UMass Boston and Bridgewater State University with Leadership Institute trainees