TOP / Activities / Mayumi Shirasawa

Experiencing the World’s largest support system for students with disabilities

  • Mayumi Shirasawa
  • Mayumi Shirasawa
  • 2013 (2nd cohort)


Associate Professor, Research and Support Center on Higher Education for the Hearing Impaired and Visually Impaired, Tsukuba University of Technology
Academic background
PhD in Disability Sciences, Graduate School, Division of Special Education, University of Tsukuba
Dispatched to:
Rochester Institute of Technology
September 2013-August 2014
(Joint authorship) 『College Note-Taking Handbook (in Japanese)
(Joint authorship) 『Guide Book for Supporting Hearing-Impaired Students (in Japanese)
At the Campus of National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID)
At the Campus of National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID)
At the party held in Rochester Institute of Technology
At the party held in Rochester Institute of Technology
What are you focusing on during your fellowship period?

For twenty years since my school days, I have been engaged in supporting students with hearing disabilities who study at universities and other institutions of higher education. Therefore, also in the foreign country where I study, I conduct research and studies on how to improve the support system for students with hearing disabilities in Japan.
In Japan, the Disability Discrimination Act was enacted in June 2013, and in January 2014, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was ratified, fulfilling the ardent wish of the persons involved. In the time to come, I predict that measures and policies which are necessary for the social participation of people with disabilities will be developed in various areas, but in the present situation, we don’t have enough know-how in Japan. I thought that someone who could express opinions with an eye toward ten or twenty years ahead would be needed now that the whole country has started to move, and I decided to study abroad.

Could you explain briefly what exactly you have been doing during the International Fellowship period?

I have been conducting research on university support systems for students with disabilities and also on details of training programs of sign language interpreters mainly at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the United States. This university accepts more than 1,300 students with hearing disabilities and the scale of its support system is the largest in the world. More than 100 sign language interpreters are employed and students are supported in class daily. Under such circumstances, I am conducting research, particularly on measures which are effective to improve the quality of support and on the backup system by the university. I also attend conferences which are held across America; and from late March, I am planning to go to and do research at Northeastern University in Boston and at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C.

Please give your feedback on the International Fellowship Program.

Among the projects that invite themes that contribute widely to the public benefit, I don’t think that any other project provides better support than this. Though my job allows me to stay abroad only for one year, at a briefing after I was selected, they said that they wanted me to study in earnest if possible for 2 years, and I felt very thankful with what they said. At the same time, I could feel their eagerness to foster talent who can lead Asia in the future and it really moved me. Though I am not fully confident with my own competence, I am glad if you will apply with a spirit that you will be one of those who will make Japan in the age to come.

How do you want to build on your studies in the US after returning to Japan?

At the school where I am posted now, I work as director general of The Postsecondary Education Programs Network of Japan (PEPNet-Japan) and make efforts to improve support systems for the students with hearing disabilities in cooperation with universities all over Japan.
After I return to Japan, I hope that I will hold symposiums and workshops through these networks in cooperation with the Japan Student Services Organization and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and convey a lot of know-how that I learned abroad. Especially, supporting students with hearing disabilities in specialized fields and introducing sign language interpreters into universities are problems difficult to solve in Japan now. However, after I observed efforts by universities in America, I found that there are still many things that we can do. Using the knowledge I have learned, my present goal is to make universities all over Japan into the places where students can study in specialized fields as much as they like.