Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Diversity

Culture and Disability: A Cape Verdean Perspective

Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Diversity

Culture and Disability: A Cape Verdean Perspective

Article excerpt

Abstract: The Cape Verdean community has a long history in the United States, yet little is known about its culture and health behaviors as they relate to disability and illness. This article discusses how Cape Verdeans with disabilities and their families perceive disability and how it differs from service providers' perceptions. Additionally, it addresses several reasons that explain why cultural competency protocols are not as successful as they should be in reaching the Cape Verdean community. Finally, recommendations for culturally relevant service delivery are presented.

Key Words: Cape Verdean, Cultural Identity, Disability Identity, Interdependence, Culturally Relevant Approach to Services

Despite the Cape Verdean community's long history in the United States, families who have children with disabilities continue to be underserved because they are, in many cases, racially and ethnically misidentified, underrepresented, and unknown by disability service providers. Service providers have limited knowledge about Cape Verdeans' health behaviors in general, their experiences with accessing the service delivery system, and their perception regarding disability, which departs from the standard held by service providers. Unfortunately, efforts made by service providers such as increased diversity awareness, cross-cultural training, community-based outreach models, and cultural competency Çrotocols have had limited success in reaching Cape ërdeans with disabilities and their families or increasing service providers' understanding of their situation. One underlying problem is how the philosophy of independence, a fundamental principle used in the disability service community, contributes to the cultural barrier between the Cape Verdean community and service providers. As a result, Cape Verdeans with disabilities and their families are often unserved and underserved. The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) in its Long Range Plans has recognized the need for a paradigm shift for servicing people with disabilities from culturally diverse backgrounds. NIDRR suggests that "disability as a product of interaction between individual factors and characteristics of the natural, built, cultural, and social environments.. .Disability is contextual variable, dynamic over time and circumstances" (1999, p. 68578).

The purpose of this article is to give service providers information regarding (a) the unique cultural dynamics of the Cape Verdean community, (b) Cape Verdeans' perceptions of disability and how it maybe different from the current political platform regarding disability in the US, (c) reasons why cultural competency protocols may have not been as successful as they should have been, and (d) recommendations for more effective service delivery.

Analysis for this article is based on fieldwork conducted in the pilot study "Understanding the Cape Verdean Community: An Analysis of Race and Disability in Massachusetts1." The study included a series of focus groups and individual interviews with Cape Verdean families who have children with developmental disabilities and with service providers2 from rehabilitation agencies, disability related organizations, high schools, and health care institutions. Children with disabilities represented a range of developmental disabilities (i.e., cerebral palsy and hearing impairment, learning disability, multiple sclerosis, neurofibromatosis, schizophrenia, and spinal cord injury). Information for this article also draws from working with Common Threads (CT). CT is a Cape Verdean cultural initiative that organizes community conferences focusing on social issues3.

It is beyond the scope of this article to present the complete history of the Cape Verdean community or the development of the disability community in the United States; however, a brief overview of both is essential and necessary for service providers attempting to work with and develop culturally relevant services. …

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