Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

A Qualitative Study of the Career Development of Hispanics with Disabilities

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

A Qualitative Study of the Career Development of Hispanics with Disabilities

Article excerpt

The purpose of this research is to qualitatively examine the career development of a sample of Midwest Hispanics with disabilities. In order to contextualize the research presented in this article, we will discuss the following background topics: (a) Hispanics, disability, and employment; and (b) career development.

Hispanics, Disability, and Employment

"The term, Hispanic, is widely used by social scientists to refer to a very diverse group of people who share a history of Spanish colonialism in the American continent" (Arbona, 1995, p. 37). Although we will use the term, Hispanic, in this study, it is important to note that the broader term, Latino, is preferred by some (Arbona, 1995). The diversity of this group is reflected by the following self reported identification of 22,354,100 Hispanic respondents to the Current Population Survey (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1991): 64% Mexican, 10.5% Puerto Rican, 4.9% Cuban, 13.7% Central or South American, and 6.9% other Hispanic. Most of these individuals reside in the South or Southwest United States (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1991).

Although this group is quite diverse, they share some common risks. Specifically, they report low levels of education, which lead to low paying jobs and high rates of poverty (Morales & Bonilla, 1993). In addition, barriers to health care, which include language, lack of transportation, geographic inacessibility, and financial constraints, (Estrada, Trevino, & Ray, 1990), increase the risk of disability (Gilbert, 1980). Similarly, substance abuse (Leal, 1990), other health risk behaviors (e.g., smoking, dietary practices) (Marks, Garcia, & Solis, 1990), and the occupational hazards of migrant work (Cordes, 1988; Wilk, 1986; Rust, 1990) add to the risk of disability and chronic illness in Hispanics.

Migrant work is particularly common among Hispanics. In fact, most migrant workers in the U.S. are Hispanic (Slesinger & Pfeffer, 1992). This type of work, in and of itself, often adds to the risk of disability and seriously impedes career development. Migrants have higher incidences of hospitalization and chronic illness than the general population (Slesinger, Cristenson, & Cautley, 1986). In addition, the migrant nature of their work limits access to educational and career opportunities (Morales & Bonilla, 1993).

Career Development

For the purpose of this article, we will provide only a brief discussion of career development with special focus on the issues relevant to Hispanics. Readers are referred to Szymanski, Hershenson, Enright, and Ettinger (in press) for a more extensive discussion.

Career development is a complex topic (Brown, 1990), especially when considering people with disabilities (Szymanski et al., in press) and racial and ethnic minorities (Fitzgerald & Betz, 1994; Osipow & Littlejohn, 1995). The definition of career development provides evidence of its complexity in relation to both Hispanics and people with disabilities. On the one hand, Brown and Brooks have suggested that "career development is, for most people, a lifelong process of getting ready to choose, choosing, and typically continuing to make choices from among the many occupations available in our society" (Brown & Brooks, 1984, p. ix). On the other hand, Osipow and Littlejohn (1995) have questioned the underlying assumption implicit in the definition of career development and in major career theories. "If work is not seen as a central life variable, if options and choices are not seen to be available so that individuals see themselves as having some control over their lives, or if social discrimination operates to distort the effects of individual's characteristics, then theoretically predictable behaviors cannot apply" (Osipow & Littlejohn, 1995, p. 255).

Although there has been considerable discussion about the relative applicability of theories to people with disabilities (see e. …

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