Building Capacity for Outreach to Asian Americans with Disabilities

The Center for Capacity Building on Minorities with Disabilities Research (CCBMDR) has received funding from the ARRA-funded initiatives of the Illinois Human Services Department’s Division of Rehabilitation Services (IDRS) to launch an 18-month capacity-building outreach project to address an important service gap. This new initiative will develop and test a strategy to increase the capacity of vocational rehabilitation agencies to reach out to Chicago-based Asians with disabilities, to ensure that they gain access to culturally appropriate vocational rehabilitation (VR) services and employment options.

Compared to other ethnic and racial minorities with disabilities, Asian Americans with disabilities are under-represented in the U.S. rehabilitation and disability system. In Illinois, the proportion of Asian Americans being served by the state vocational rehabilitation (VR) system is only 2.13% or 976 individuals out of a total of 45,863 (DRS VR Data FY 2008). These numbers are alarmingly low given the large population of Asians in the Chicago area.

The racial category of “Asian” in the U.S. census is very broad and includes individuals from multiple ethnic, racial and linguistic groups. These individuals may have unique vocational needs and face different barriers than other ethnic groups living in the area. One such barrier to service is the insulating nature of the Asian community itself; another is the limited capability of RS to conduct outreach to these culturally and linguistically unique communities.

Therefore outreach activities are needed in these communities to build an information-sharing partnership that can benefit those Asian with disabilities who may need vocational rehabilitation supports and services. In response, CCBMDR researchers will conduct a needs assessment and use the information to develop an instructional guide or toolkit highlighting culturally relevant outreach strategies and successful practices that can help bridge the service gap for the Asian community and the disability VR system in the greater metropolitan Chicago area.