Since the early 1980s, patterns of vocational rehabilitation acceptance and service for consumers of color, particularly African Americans, have been recognized and explored. Multiple studies have indicated inequitable patterns of acceptance for VR services (Atkins & Wright. 1980: Dziekan & Okocha, 1993: Feist-Price. 1995: Herbert & Martinez, 1992: Wilson. 2000). However, also specific to acceptance rates for VR services, there have been some studies that contradict the earlier findings indicating inequitable acceptance patterns for African Americans (e.g., Wheaton. 1995, Wilson. 2002). In addition, even in the light of significant findings demonstrating that African American consumers have inequitable acceptance rates for rehabilitation services when compared to Whites, some authors have criticized the RSA 911 data as suspect in the analyses. Although there have been different interpretations of the data. the issue has remained a topic of debate since the initial studies in the 1980s.
African-Americans comprise about 12% (34-35 million) of the total United States population and represent the second largest minority group in the nation (US Census. 2000). Although African-Americans have experienced much progress in improving opportunities in the past 20 years, they still lag behind other segments of the population in many respects. In fact, the most recent US Census Bureau data (2000) indicates that that African-Americans are subject to some of the most severe unemployment of any racial or ethnic group in American society with the possible exception of American Indians. More specifically, 22.9% of individuals reporting as African Americans in the last U.S. Census were living below poverty levels in contrast with 11.6% for Whites. In addition, individuals reporting as African Americans in the last U.S. Census were much more likely to have disabilities than other racial groups, again with exception to American Indians: 24.3% of African Americans and American Indians reported having disabilities. This is in contrast with 18.5% of Whites despite the fact that the median age of Whites was significantly older than the other groups. These recent census findings support other researchers' contentions that ethnicity is related to the overall disability rates in the United States (Allen, 1976: Bowe, 1984: Hayes-Bautista, 1992; U.S. Department of Education, 1902: Walker, Adbury, Maholmes, & Rackely, 1992).
The demographic characteristics within the U. S. reflect an increasingly diverse population. Recent census data indicates that African Americans. Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans presently comprise approximately 33% of the U. S. population, and the U.S. Census Bureau has announced that by the year 2010, Whites seem certain to be a distinct numerical minority (U.S. Department of Labor, 2000). Thus, the workplace as we now know it will become increasingly diverse with composition changing from mainly Whites to mainly women and individuals of other racial and ethnic groups.
Since African Americans comprise a largo, significant, and growing minority group with a high prevalence of disability, it is anticipated that African Americans will increasingly come into contact with rehabilitation agencies. Thus, it is important to study the manner in which they are accepted into rehabilitation services. If African American clients are actually denied rehabilitation services in disproportion to White counterparts, then the rehabilitation needs of African Americans may not be getting met, their potential may be limited, and opportunities may be denied them that would have led to success in education, job training, and employment (Rosenthal & Berven, 1999). Certainly many variables other than race may influence eligibility determination (Bolton & Cooper, 1980; Wheaten: 1995; Wilson, 2000); however, legislative mandates such as the 1992 and 1998 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as well as continued attention to the potential for other inequitable service patterns for minority consumers suggest that racial discrepancies in MR acceptance remains an issue in many states (Wilson, 2000). …