African American Population Outreach Guide

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African Americans and Vocational Rehabilitation

Helping job seekers with disabilities to find competitive, integrated employment can be challenging. To do so, it's important to form a solid, trusting relationship. If a job seeker is from a culture different from yours, it can be daunting to know how or where to start. As vocational rehabilitation counselors, we need to learn culturally responsive approaches to build solid relationships.

Outreach and Engagement of Diverse Populations

Effective community engagement and outreach takes careful planning and acknowledgement that each population that we work with is a unique and offers opportunities to broaden our understanding of what makes a community.  Here are some strategies to consider when building your outreach and engagement approaches:


Six Essential Strategies for Inclusive Engagement

  1. Build personal relationships with target population
  2. Create a welcoming atmosphere
  3. Increase accessibility
  4. Develop alternative methods for engagement
  5. Maintain a presence within the community
  6. Partner with diverse organizations and agencies

Source: McGinn, Mayor Mike. “Inclusive Outreach and Public Engagement Guide.” (pdf)

Below are some ways to apply these strategies when considering culturally competent outreach:

  • Understand and recognize the differences and disparities that make some cultural, ethnic, or racial groups more likely to respond to one kind of outreach than another. Consider transportation, childcare, literacy, and other challenges to meeting times and locations.  Try to meet people where they are at rather than where you expect them to be.
  • Before scheduling events, check that they do not conflict with religious/cultural holidays.
  • Make sure to understand that “this is the way we’ve always done it” might not work for other cultural groups. For example, try switching the time of your event to accommodate a range of schedules.

“Cultural competence is the ability of individuals and systems to respond respectfully and effectively to people of all cultures, classes, races, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and faiths or religions in a manner that recognizes, affirms, and values the worth of individuals, families, tribes, and communities, and protects and preserves the dignity of each.”

From the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Engaging Job Seekers Who Are African American

No matter what their race, all job seekers are individuals. Overcoming beliefs about stereotypes is crucial for vocational rehabilitation counselors to best help job seekers. Many African Americans share the legacy of historical trauma. The atrocities, dehumanization, and exploitation of slavery continues to have an effect on African Americans generations after it was abolished. Inequities in today's society continues to deepen the scar.

If you are a vocational rehabilitation counselor who is not Black, it is crucial to explore historical and present inequities, examine your own biases, and identify obstacles to overcome. Learning is the first step.

The following resources can assist in your efforts to conduct outreach aiming to engage underserved people with disabilities and be better prepared to provide services to diverse communities.

Recommended Resources from TACQE and Partners

Here are a variety of resources to get you started:


More Resources

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