Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Report on Latinos with disabilities now available for free download

From Proyecto Vision:

Three years ago, Proyecto Visión released a report that examined the low employment status of disabled Latinos and recommended ways to improve their job and other opportunities. Latinos with Disabilities in the United States: Understanding & Addressing Barriers to Employment presents a snapshot of this growing population, outlining factors affecting the extent of participation, and degree of success, of disabled Latinos in the service delivery system; highlighting innovative research and employment projects that are working to reduce barriers; and presenting profiles of individuals and families who have attained success and others who have fallen between the cracks. The Executive Summary is included below. This important document is now available as a free download in PDF format.



This report characterizes the population of Latinos with disabilities in the United States, examines the challenges they face in securing employment, highlights exemplary research and vocational projects, and makes recommendations on how to improve employment outcomes for Latinos with disabilities.

Describing A Population

Latinos are the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States. Demographic information shows that compared to other groups, Latinos have lower levels of educational attainment and higher dropout rates. They are more likely to live near or below poverty level and are over-represented in dangerous manual and service occupations. Disproportionately affected by health concerns including HIV/AIDS, obesity and diabetes, Latinos’ health issues often go unchecked because they have less access to medical insurance and health care. Unabated health concerns, vocational injury and disability caused by violence all contribute to Latinos acquiring disabilities at elevated rates.

The Effects of Difference

In the United States, Latinos with disabilities are not participating in vocational rehabilitation programs at levels proportionate to their representation in the population overall. Scholars have attributed this to a number of factors including differing attitudes and beliefs about concepts such as “disability,” “independence” and “success.” Researchers also have explained disabled Latinos’ lower levels of successful vocational outcomes by pointing to a rehabilitation system that does not fit the realities of many people from marginalized racial and ethnic backgrounds. Language differences are a source of embarrassment for some people, acting as a disincentive to participate, while others are afraid they will compromise their legal status if they apply for government services. Immigrants are often unaccustomed to advocating for their rights and may not be comfortable with the aggressive navigation required to gain access to opportunities for education and employment.

Models of Success

Innovative research and employment projects have emerged in response to the growing need for services for disabled people from a variety of cultural/ethnic groups. Several of these initiatives are outlined in this paper, including the Center for Capacity Building on Minorities with Disabilities Research, part of a participatory action study at the University of Illinois at Chicago to develop recommendations to improve vocational rehabilitation outcomes for people with disabilities from diverse backgrounds. In Los Angeles, the Westside Center for Independent Living operates two successful job placement programs that specialize in outreach to the Latino community, especially to disabled people who are monolingual Spanish speakers or have limited English skills. These projects are models for job developers across the country.

Focus on Solutions

As staff members of Proyecto Visión—the only national technical assistance center on employment issues for Latinos with disabilities—the authors of this report have five years of experience working with jobseekers, employers, service providers and emerging disabled Latino leaders to bridge communities in support of opportunities for disabled Latinos. Four straightforward recommendations are presented for improving employment outcomes for Latinos with disabilities:

1) Improve Vocational Rehabilitation Services for Latinos

This includes encouraging multiple interpretations of independent living and definitions of success; making the service system more accessible to disabled Latino jobseekers by hiring bilingual/bicultural job developers who serve as peer role models; providing training in cultural responsiveness to all service providers; and reducing processes that might act as disincentives.

2) Re-envision the Disability Community’s Approach to Latinos

This calls for disability agencies to emulate outreach methods successful among Latinos to increase impact in the community; augment public education materials to make them more culturally and linguistically palatable; and bring more Latinos with disabilities into leadership positions within the disability movement.

3) Build the Latino Community’s Capacity for Including People with Disabilities

By introducing disability themes into the Latino community, they become more familiar and help to reduce the stigma and shame associated with disability. This means educating Latino community leaders on disability issues and continuing to build networks and understanding between vocational rehabilitation job developers and Latino employers.

4) Increase Disabled Latino Representation in Leadership Positions Overall

Disabled Latino leaders who are visible in the private sector, government, etc., serve as role models and mentors, encouraging young disabled Latinos to succeed. Disabled Latino leaders are needed outside the disability movement, especially as legislators, public policy advocates and in other positions where they can influence employment policy.