TOMODACHI Disability Leadership Program in America


Our intensive four-month disability leadership and advocacy training takes place in Boston, Massachusetts. The goal of the program is to train the next generation of young Japanese people with disabilities to become stronger and more confident leaders.

Through this program, trainees not only enhance their leadership and advocacy skills but also gain new knowledge and expertise related to disability and inclusion. Trainees also improve their English language or American Sign Language proficiency.

The program uses a group model to further trainees' leadership and advocacy training skills. However, trainees also pursue their own independent projects inspired by a question, issue, or program related to disability. As part of their projects, trainees participate in an internship with a disability-focused government or community organization.

After graduating from the program, trainees contribute to communities in disability leadership roles. They also become mentors to future program participants.

The program is part of the TOMODACHI Initiative, a public-private partnership between the U.S.-Japan Council and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. The program is supported by Northrop Grumman Corporation, and implemented by the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) at UMass Boston, through partnership with TOMODACHI. Since the 1960s, the ICI has been a leader in disability inclusion and advocacy.


The program engages trainees in a spectrum of activities:

  1. An intensive orientation to the program and life in Boston: Trainees participate in cultural and educational activities.

  2. An internship where trainees are matched with a local training site based on their individual interests and training needs. Examples of training sites are government agencies, non-governmental organizations, schools, research institutes, and businesses.

  3. Weekly leadership seminars where trainees discuss their internship placement, explore experiences, and link those with the concepts of disability leadership and inclusion.

  4. English language training where trainees improve their conversational and written skills. Deaf trainees may participate in American Sign Language training.


Trainees give a 15-minute presentation on their training experience in English or American Sign Language at a special award ceremony in Boston. Audience members include ICI staff, peers, internship mentors and staff, and disability leaders.

Trainees submit a final report about their training experience in English and in Japanese. The report addresses the question, issue, or problem that was the focus of their individual training (internship), what they experienced and learned, and how they will use what they learned to positively impact their community in Japan.

Trainees receive a certificate of completion at a special award ceremony. They will also serve as a mentor to future trainees and other TOMODACHI alumni.


July 31 Arrival in Boston
August 3 – August 14 Orientation to the TOMODACHI Program and life in Boston
August 17 – November 18 Individual internship, weekly leadership seminars, English language/American Sign Language training
November 20 Award ceremony: final presentations and program completion
November 30 Departure for Japan


About the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI)

About UMass Boston

About Northrop Grumman Corporation

About the TOMODACHI Initiative:


Dr. Heike Boeltzig-Brown

Program Director

Miwa Tanabe

Program Coordinator