The transformation of the deaf community in Japan during the late 20th century is one of the most rapid and profound social changes in the community’s history. Over time, government institutions have adopted resolutions and policies on several issues such as education, labor, and access to information. These events enabled the establishment of the first university for deaf and hard of hearing people, National University Corporation Tsukuba University of Technology (NTUT) in 1987. NTUT recently conducted a unique project, the “Deaf Studies Project,” which included producing a video; disseminating educational materials; raising awareness of deaf community issues at local, regional, and national levels; collecting deaf people’s life histories; and documenting and analyzing successful and failed deaf movements for promoting deaf people’s empowerment. However, little has been done to document the situation of deaf women in Japan. Generally, deaf women around the world struggle with barriers related to social class, culture, legal rights, labor force participation, family structure, and power. Recently, deaf women may access a variety of services, such as education, employment, childcare, health care, and mental health services. However, little is known about their experiences as deaf women.

This presentation will explore the realities of, and critical issues related to, deaf women in Japan. We will begin by summarizing the “Deaf Studies Project” and explain the project’s current approach. We will follow this with a broad empirical description of the “Deaf Women Studies” project, and a review of educational, research, documentation, and networking strategies for empowering deaf women. We also describe the life history of a deaf woman who lived through the late 20th century and present a study of deaf women’s views on opportunities, career prospects, and work–family conflicts. Following this, we summarize selected approaches to deaf women centered development to promote their self-esteem and self-confidence development, effective community and social participation, and awareness of their social and political rights. We will conclude this presentation with a discussion about using these findings to progressively expand the public policy dialog about funding for and development of services to adequately meet deaf women’s needs, not only in Japan but worldwide.


This conference proceeding was made possible with the financial support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Digital Humanities Advancement Grants [#HAA-258756-8, 2018]; and Gallaudet University: the Office of the Chief Bilingual Officer, Yeker Anderson Club, and Department of American Sign Language and Deaf Studies.


Patrick Boudreault, Editor
Tawny Hlibok Holmes, Conference Co-Chair, & Assistant Editor
Matthew Malzkuhn, Conference Co-Chair, & Assistant Editor & Video Editor
Ivy Davis, Production Editor
Brianna Keogh, Production Editor
Andrew Biskupiak, Production Assistant
Dirksen Bauman, Advisor
T.S. Writing Services, LLC