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
- Build personal relationships with target population
- Create a welcoming atmosphere
- Increase accessibility
- Develop alternative methods for engagement
- Maintain a presence within the community
- Partner with diverse organizations and agencies
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:
- Racial capitalism as a fundamental cause of the racial and socioeconomic inequities within the novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) in the United States. African Americans are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic due to socioeconomic inequality and healthcare inequity. Community Engagement – Racial Capitalism: A Fundamental Cause of Covid-19 Pandemic Inequities Webinar
- In this webinar, learn about historical, cultural, and demographic considerations of African American communities before and after disasters. Find out how to create cross disciplinary community forums to identify the needs of African Americans. Faith-Based Organizations and African American Community Engagement during COVID-19 – TACQE U
- TECH-Prep: A Blended Learning Model for African American Youth with IDD: This two-part series features a panel presentation highlighting the blended learning model (virtual soft skills training and coaching, coding, and tech internship) being piloted with African American youth with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in Chicago. This training is provided by the Virginia Commonwealth University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (VCU-RRTC).
- COVID-19 has had a more devastating impact on African Americans than it has on White Americans. Learn why and what to do about it in this article. COVID-19 and Its Effects on African Americans
- Stereotypes regarding African American Clients are often activated early in the rehabilitation counseling process, under conditions of uncertainty, when limited information is available. Racial Bias and Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling – Factsheet
- Learn the facts about the disproportional and devastating effect that COVID-19 has had on African-Americans. Community Engagement, Awareness, and Vocational Challenges for African-Americans During Disasters – Factsheet
- The document provides a carefully considered list of links to websites and documents that can give professionals an advantage when partnering with parents. Partnering with Hard-to-Connect Families
- This research summary describes considerations, challenges, implications, and recommendations for COVID-19. Community Engagement in the Era of COVID-19: Considerations, Challenges, Implications, and Recommendations
- Report: Understanding the Influences of Race, Disability, and Poverty on Employment