Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Minority Consumers of Independent Living Services: A Pilot Investigation

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Minority Consumers of Independent Living Services: A Pilot Investigation

Article excerpt

In the United States the care, education and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities have undergone numerous changes over the past decades. Attitudes toward consumers, empowerment, deinstitutionalization, independent living, barrier free designs, multicultural awareness, and education in the least restrictive environment are examples of areas in which changes have occurred (Walker & Wiegmann, 1997; Rubin & Roessler, 1995). Today, the full inclusion movement led by a coalition of consumers and non-consumers mirrors society's desire to integrate persons with disabilities into communities as active, independent and contributing members.

However, society is far from becoming an inclusive one for all consumers, particularly minority consumers. In fact, major obstacles to successful rehabilitation for minority consumers exist today (Atkins, Morten, & Sue, 1998; Dixon & Wright, 1996; Jenkins, Ayers, & Hunt, 1996; Wright, 1993). Primary among the obstacles is a lack of recognition and appreciation of their cultural, ethnic and racial differences by many service providers and institutions (Atkins, Morten, & Sue, 1998). Another barrier is the Eurocentric approach to service delivery by many medical, educational and rehabilitation service providers and institutions (Atkins, Morten, & Sue, 1998). This philosophical or pragmatic stance negates or fails to acknowledge non-European world views and, as a result, fails to provide culturally, ethnically and racially appropriate care and rehabilitation. Structural and institutional barriers in the rehabilitation service delivery system exist for African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans (Leal-Idrago, 1993). Placement, evaluation and training are among the most pressing issues facing consumers who are members of a minority group (Atkins & Wright, 1980; Wright, 1988; Wright and Emener, 1992).

Barriers also exist in the pre-service and in-service training of rehabilitation personnel. Leal-Idrago (1993) and Medina, Marshall and Fried (1988) found that cultural sensitivity training in rehabilitation counselor education programs should reflect cultural pluralism (the viewpoint which holds that reality is made up of many different perspectives). In other words, rehabilitation education training programs and service providers need to address not only the individual's physical condition but the historical values and beliefs of the group to which the person belongs (Chan, Lam, Wong, Leung, & Fang, 1988; Dutton, 1992; Herbert and Cheatham, 1988; Leung & Sakata, 1988; Marshall, Johnson & Lonetree, 1993; Martin, Frank, Minkler & Johnson, 1988; Medina, Marshall & Fried, 1988; Rivera & Cespedes, 1983; Wright, 1988; 1993).

Due to the many challenges which may be encountered by minorities with disabilities, assessments of service delivery systems are necessary. As such, this paper reviews the findings of a pilot investigation of an Independent Living program located in the Tampa Bay Area. The purpose of the investigation was to determine whether or not similar barriers existed for minority consumers of this program and, if so, to determine how these barriers impacted the transportation, housing, vocational training, medical, and independent living services received by the consumer.


Self Reliance, Inc. (SRI), a local independent living service organization, in collaboration with a Planning Committee, conducted a community forum entitled Minorities with Disabilities Workshop. The Planning Committee consisted of faculty and staff from the University of South Florida and several social service agencies in the Tampa Bay Area (e.g., the Division of Blind Services, Vietnamese Mutual Association, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Hispanic Affairs League, and The United Way). The intended purpose of SRI and the Planning Committee was to identify the needs of minorities with disabilities within the Tampa Bay Area. …

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