Tala Karmy-Jones is a recipient of the Academic Year 2019-2020 Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship. The award provides undergraduate, graduate, and professional school students with financial support to develop fluency in less commonly taught languages (LCTLs) and expertise in the regions in which these languages are spoken. Every year the Center for Global Studies awards between 12-15 fellowships to UW students. Click here to learn more.
Growing up with a younger, non-verbal brother on the Autism Spectrum, I was witness to the ableist ideologies that run deeply in US society. I saw the pain and limitations that academic, government, and social institutions placed on my brother, even as they claimed that any inability to participate in public life was due to his “disability,” and not their intervention. When I traveled to Japan for the first time, I was naturally curious about the state of disability rights and activism. Unfortunately, however, the first few years I was in Japan I was unable to interact with local disability rights groups in any meaningful way. Thanks to my FLAS scholarship, I was able to attend high level Japanese language classes at UW and put money that I had saved for food, rent, and tuition towards a four-week trip to Japan this summer. During this trip I met with several disability rights activists, who allowed me to attend their group meetings and participate in their community. I was fortunate enough to meet Japan’s “first severely disabled politician” working in the upper house, and even had the opportunity to interview her in her office in the House of Councilors. As I continue my Japanese studies here at UW, I’m excited to focus on vocabulary relating to law and disability activism so that I may pursue my passion for disability rights further, whether I return to Japan or continue living in the US.