Vocational Rehabilitation and the Dilemma of

Race in Rural Communities:

Sociopolitical Realities and Myths from the Past

Keith B. Wilson

The Pennsylvania State University

Dothel W. Edwards, Jr.

University of Maryland-Eastern Shore

Reginald J. Alston

University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign

Debra A. Harley

University of Kentucky

Jhan D. Doughty

The Pennsylvania State University

 

ABSTRACT

While rural communities constitute a major part of the United States populace, educational achievement, access to transportation, and earning potential tends to lag behind that of many urban areas. In addition, social, economic, political, severity of disability, and other demographic factors such as race and culture are important variables to consider when implementing outreach activities for potential vocational rehabilitation (VR) clients. Because people of color are found in significant numbers in rural areas, implications for VR counselors are not only warranted, but essential to providing appropriate service to diverse population.

 

Vocational Rehabilitation and the Dilemma

of Race in Rural Communities:

Sociopolitical Realities and Myths from the Past

We do not believe that one can discuss sociopolitical realities regarding people of color with disabilities in rural centers without a brief history of past postulations in the counseling, psychiatry and psychology areas regarding I.Q., slavery, and the suggestions of inferiority of people of color in the United States. Because the milieu of slavery was primarily rural, the rural backdrop is essential to people of color with disabilities in rural centers as we enter the 21st century. Additionally, the sociopolitical indicators of today (for example, earnings, housing, education and politics) suggest that many preconceptions about people of color can be traced back to the early coerced immigration of African people to the United States over 400 years ago. While connecting the association of mental health and slavery, Thomas and Sillen (1972) informs us that various mental disorders were as much to do with the hue of one's skin than any other demographic variable during the time of slavery in the Americas. Thus, mental health and intellectual comparisons serve to underscore the present assessments of the condition of many people of color with disabilities in rural communities.

Slavery, in its many forms, produced several spurious myths that presently persist in the United States. Myths produced by the institution of slavery are apparent in rural centers today (e.g., many financial and social institutions are still stringently segregated as indicated by both Jackson & Stewart’s and Dangerfield’s essays in this volume). Although slavery existed in many parts of the world, the kind of slavery encountered in the western hemisphere was different and more demoralizing than in other parts of the world (Browder, 1992). In the United States, for example, Thomas and Sillen (1972) reported that rationalizations of certain mental disorders (e.g., Dysaesthesia) served to sanctify a hierarchical social order of race. Although psychology was not recognized as a field until after the emancipation of Africans and African Americans, to justify slavery, individuals who treated mental illness claimed that African Americans were uniquely fitted for bondage by their elementary mental way of thinking and behaving.

This suggested that people of color were considered inferior to the White race based on the subjective rates of "insanity and idiocy" (Litwack, 1961). There have been several justifications for slavery that have been documented and since proven bogus (Thomas & Sillen, 1972). However, one such thought to justify slavery was that African Americans were thought to have good mental health if they were content with the subservient lot (being controlled and docile), while the protesters were labeled deranged and mentally unstable. Likewise, many Africans were labeled with Dysaesthesia Aethiopica or rascality (mischievous, disreputable, or dishonest character, behavior, or action) if they did not abide by the expectations of the slaveholders. As far back as 1928, psychiatrists believed that being associated with people of color would destroy the European American race (Freud, 1938). To add support to the earlier findings of Thomas and Sillen and Freud, Sue (1994) reported several contemporary and unjustified findings of pathology found in the literature regarding people of color:

Racial ethnic minorities are often seen as deficient in certain desirable attributes (intelligence, motivation, good hygiene, etc.). Many in our society continue to believe, for example, that African Americans lack innate intelligence due to “genes.” For now, instead of blaming the genes, they blame culture! The terms cultural deprivation and cultural impoverishment do not make conceptual sense. Because, isn’t everyone born with a culture? What the early advocates of cultural impoverishment were saying was that minorities did not inherit the “right culture” (p. 24).

As Sue suggests, the negative mental health and cognitive labels attributed to Africans and African Americans back in the time of slavery are presently within the counseling, psychology, and psychiatry professions. The presence of lingering stereotypes in the human services is not only non-debatable, but also expected given the positive correlation of past and present societal attitudes toward people of color, particularly in rural centers.  

Mitigating one's intelligence or cognitive capacity based on race is not a new contention. For example, Jensen’s (1969) work on race and I.Q., asserted that because of genetic factors, European Americans are superior to African Americans in intelligence. To substantiate what Sue (1994) adduced about none of us being immune to the prejudices and stereotypes of the larger society, Abraham Lincoln, past President of the United States also corroborated negative perceptions relative to superiority and inferiority based on race in the following quote:

There is a physical difference between the white and the black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together…while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race (Browder, 1992, p. 18).

Furthermore, Sue (1994) asserted that the counseling profession needs a sociopolitical reality and confirmed a connection between racism, the counseling profession, and society:

Yet, I am often impressed by the fact that the actual practice of counseling can result in cultural oppression; that what happens in the counselor’s office may represent a microcosm of race relations in the larger society; that the so-called psychological problems of minority groups may reside not within, but outside of our clients; and that no matter how well intentioned the helping profession, he/she is not immune from inheriting the racial biases of his/her forebears (p. 22).

Stereotypes and Prejudices

While the manifestation of negative stereotypes perpetuated by the dominant group is harmful no matter where one resides-whether in a rural or urban area; it is our contention that negative stereotypes by European Americans on people of color may be more detrimental in rural communities than urban ones. We argue this for the following reasons: (a) rural areas tend to have less resources than urban regions; (b) rural regions tend to be more isolated than urban areas; and (c) people in rural regions have less exposure to racial and ethnic minorities than individuals in urban dwellings. Consequently, stereotypes and prejudices may be more intense for people of color living in rural regions. As stated previously, Sue asserted back in 1994 that none of us are immune from inheriting the images/stereotypes of the larger society.

Because of the informal communication networks of rural communities (Wodarski, 1983), stereotypes and prejudices tend to be passed down from generation to generation, adversely influencing the quality of life for many people of color. Therefore, it is our contention that such stereotypes and prejudices are still present within the psyche of many European American psychologists and counselors today. To accentuate this assertion, the recent study by Rosenthal and Berven (1999) reported that mental health professionals (VR counselors in training) are likely to prejudge African Americans based on prior negative stereotypes. In addition, when VR counselors receive information contradicting these stereotypes, they tend to resist changing their preconceived stereotypes about African Americans. Although a regrettable commentary on the field of counseling, evidence suggests that stereotypes are difficult to change, even in the face of contrary information about the stereotype previously held by the counselor.   As we will continually illustrate throughout this paper, people of color with disabilities face even greater challenges when living in rural centers.

Disability Status

Goode (1994) reported that adding disability to the racial equation is more problematic to minorities because of the double minority status of being a person with a disability and a racial minority. Subjoining support to the double minority status assertion, Banner (1988) suggested that people of color with disabilities encounter prejudice and discrimination due to their disabilities and this is compounded by prejudice, discrimination and resident in rural settings. The levels/categories of racism can be as complicated as trying to articulate the healthy paranoia that many African Americans believe is necessary to survive in a European American dominated world. As the fields of counseling/psychology/psychiatry move to eradicate detrimental myths from the past, we must remember the residual effects of the perpetuated sociopolitical realities that we presently face in the 21st century. Race and culture continue to influence the way North Americans view the world, and when adding disability to the race factor; it is an even more daunting task to obtain equality for people of color in rural America in the United States.

Societal Attitudes

As expected, the attitudes towards African Americans in rural America are nothing more than a microcosm of the attitudes of society. That is, discrimination is likely to be more prevalent towards African American (people of color) than any other racial group in the United States (Smith, 2000). Our society has, beyond a doubt, conditioned us to treat individuals in a negative way if they differ from the norms of the general society with respect to race , color, religion, political affiliation, and sexual preference . Accordingly, people of color with disabilities in rural centers face the triple challenge of having to contend with discrimination on the basis of their disability, minority status and rural residence status. “Minority persons with disabilities are among the most untapped of our nation’s resources. Most have not been given an opportunity to contribute productively to the well-being of our society. It is essential to the success of our country in the 21st century to utilize the resources of minority persons with disabilities” (Brown, J., 1993, p. 11). Ayers (1967) states that:

Black people suffer from discrimination and prejudice, which is perhaps the most relentless and detrimental disadvantage and intensifies the other disadvantages. Handicapped white groups have greater economic mobility and more chance of being assimilated into the larger society. The obstacles against such assimilation are more formidable for the black man, largely because everyone can see his ethnic identity. (p. 55)

Many individuals are pre-judged negatively before merit is established in certain relationships. As a result, myths  pertaining to diverse groups are perpetuated from one-generation  to another without, in many instances, questioning what was originally communicated from past generations (Thomas & Sillen, 1972). Because of the prejudice many people of color with disabilities encounter, attitudinal barriers may be as difficult to conquer as the physical ones.

Disability Factors By Race In Rural America

There are many issues affecting the participation of racial and ethnic minorities regarding vocational rehabilitation services outcomes in rural communities. While not an exhaustive list, these issues may include social, economic, political, severity of disability, and other demographic factors such as race and culture. Wilson (1988) identified nine critical factors related to successful rehabilitation of African-Americans including self-concept, realistic self-appraisal, and availability of strong outside support. Likewise, Belgrave and Walker (1991) examined predictive variables of employment outcomes of African Americans with disabilities and found that transportation source was the strongest predictor followed by social support. Because rural areas have less access to public transportation than urban areas, going to and from vocational rehabilitation agencies or employment centers may present more of a challenge than in urban areas. Wheaton, Wilson, and Brown (1996) adduced that because of various external, internal, and environmental factors; people of color with disabilities may enter the vocational rehabilitation (VR) system more dependent on services from social service agencies than European-Americans with disabilities. Given the current focus on client empowerment, the needs of people of color must be explored from a cultural perspective (Wilson, Jackson, & Doughty, 1999), to maximize the understanding of clients residing in both rural and urban areas. Because people of color in rural centers are more likely to depend on transportation, the isolated nature of rural milieus present concerns that may not be as intense with people of color with disability living in urban centers.

Predispositions of Rural Areas

Urban areas seem proportionally distributed throughout the four regions of the United States. However, rural populations are primarily concentrated in the Midwest and South. While racial minorities represent approximately 15% of the population in the United States, they are found in significant numbers in certain rural centers. When observing seasonal patterns of migrant workers, one may find that the number of minorities who live in non-metropolitan areas may increase projections for minorities who reside, although temporality, in rural areas (Lòpez-De Fede, 1998). Wimberly and Morris (1996) stated that over half (53%) of the African American population, including 91% of the documented rural African Americans, reside in the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Research also suggests that poverty is more prevalent in many of these states (Wimberly & Morris, 1996). With this, Mathesen and Page (1985) mentioned that some occupations that are specific to rural settings, have shown high incidences of injuries that result in disabilities. It is also hypothesized that the details of the following four factors are in contrast to what one would expect to observe in urban areas. First, we must define what is considered a rural community.

The United States Census Bureau defines a rural area as places of fewer than 2,500 persons (U.S. Census, 1990). Yet, factors other than population density is needed to describe more meaningful rural settings. These include: (a) type of social supports (Cordes, 1989), (b) impact of religion (Meystedt, 1984), (c) adequate communication systems (Rounds, 1988; Wodarski, 1983), (d) access to health care services (Anderson & Civic, 1989), and (e) employment outlook in rural settings (Cordes, 1989; Patton, 1989). Each of these factors are discussed as they relate to rural settings.

Social support

Historically, family systems in rural settings tend to be large. As such, the nuclear and extended families are closely identified with each other (Neito, 1989). The traditional two-parent family has been the norm in rural settings. However, there has been an increase in single parent families (Cordes, 1989). Persons who reside in rural areas often depend on close informal support systems because the common ideology is that rural settings should take care of their own (Horowitz & Rosenthal, 1994; Nieto, 1989; Rounds, 1988). In addition, there may also be a tendency in some communities to discern who is and who is not "deserving" of community support (Rounds, 1988). In essence, discrimination based on ones’ perceived notion of family and desirability of services may be part of the social fabric. Persons in urban settings also rely more on friends than family for support due to a prevalence of physical separation from other family members (Amato, 1993). Furthermore, persons from urban settings are more likely than persons from rural settings to seek or ask for help from "outsiders" (Rounds, 1988). Not asking for assistance may further isolate people residing in rural communities, and the available social support services within the community. Speaking of social support, Coward and Smith (1983) and Stack (1996) indicated that rural areas are deficient in formal social supports such as human service agencies. Thus, we adduce that social support is directly connected to accessibility issues for potential clients who just happen to be people or color with disabilities in rural areas. Supporting this assertion, several researchers have reported that people of color tend to be accepted less for VR services than European Americans (Atkins & Wright, 1980; Dziekan & Okocha, 1993; Feist-Price, 1995; Wilson, 2000). As Lòpez-De Fede (1998) recently inferred, race can impact service delivery for people in rural areas. Although social support tends to be different for rural and urban clients, African Americans may receive less support because they may be readily identifiable as an outsider as opposed to other cultural or ethnic group in rural areas. Supporting the identifiable outsider assertion, Tajfel (1981) and Jackson (1999) both indicate that the concept of race and social identity is more salient for ethnic minorities, particularly African Americans because of the physical/biological evidence of skin pigment, hair texture, and facial features. Moreover, Bennett (1995) also supports the assertion that ones' hue can be a disadvantage. Because rural communities tend to operate on an informal communication network, understanding how the outsider concept can influence whether people of color are treated is pivotal to the helping process. If not, termination rates may increase for people of color in rural areas seeking VR services. It is apparent that the social history of America has influenced how most people view people of color in general, and specifically, perceive people of color in rural centers throughout the United States.

Religion

Rural settings compared to urban settings have historically placed a higher value on religion. Rounds (1988) reported that the high value on religion is associated with the maintenance of traditional moral values. Rounds further explains that various aspects of community life such as employment, health care, and social activities are directly affected by a rural settings' religious values and beliefs. Church members can often provide services such as companionship and counseling, protection of basic human rights, and social activities for persons in need. However, since some religions equate disability with sin, individuals with disabilities would not find support in every religious institution (Crandall, 1991). Thus, when making a referral to a religious institution a thorough client assessment is essential. During the counselor's assessment of the rural client, it is important to be aware that because of religious beliefs, some families in rural communities may be treated differently. Their religious beliefs may not only equate disability with sin, but also deny the disabled person the right to seek assistance to improve their vocational, avocational, or social circumstances. In addition, since people of color tend to generally have a strong tie to religion, getting them to seek needed non-spiritual assistance may be problematic. In certain circumstances, people of color may evidence more of an external locus of control. Thus, it may be necessary to work through community resources (e.g., family centers, churches, etc.) to gain access to VR services.

Communication

The informal communication systems in rural settings usually take the form of casual conversation among and between community members. Much of this casual conversation is extremely efficient; however, in most instances, this form of communication produces inaccurate information (Rounds, 1988). Persons who display unusual behaviors may be labeled as "outsiders" (Wodarski, 1983; p., 1989). The "outsider" label will most likely create barriers (i.e., social, vocational, and psychological) that can affect the amount of support that an individual will receive within a community. Again, people of color with disabilities in rural areas are likely to experience discrimination based on the stereotypes communicated through the informal communication network in rural communities. Although it is not the position of the authors to suggests that all European Americans who mistreat people of color in rural areas are intentionally harming them; we simply adduce that unconstructive behaviors that are projected on people of color in rural areas may cause irreversible damage. Thus, we believe that the hue (color) factor or what Jackson (2000) coins “preverbal communication” factors are associated with the informal communication norms and having a disability will increase the potential for discrimination in rural communities towards people of color.

Access to Health Care

Physicians and specialized medical services may not be available in many rural settings. Between 1975 and 1988, the number of physicians per capita increased in the United States. Yet, most of this growth was created in urban rather than rural areas (Kate, 1992). The primary reason for the disproportionately smaller number of physicians in rural settings is the limited number of places large enough to support them. In 1988, 111 rural counties across the United States did not have a physician (Kate, 1992). Most physicians select urban location for several reasons, including concentration of medical education, research, specialized care, personal ties developed during medical training, greater opportunities to interact with professional colleagues, and a taste for urban environment. Second, distance to medical facilities are often barriers (Patton, 1989). Not only do rural centers have to contend with a lack of medical facilities and staff compared to their urban counterparts, but also getting to and from these facilities could present a crisis. Fiscal resources may be the source of this discrepancy. Because people of color with disabilities in rural communities tend to have a greater difficulty getting to and from appointments because of their dependency on public transportation (Wilson, 1997), living in a rural center may present additional concerns.

Employment Outlook

Rural settings tend to be more economically and vocationally disadvantaged than urban settings (Lam, Chan, Parker, & Carter, 1987). As in urban areas, limited employment options within rural settings are perhaps the greatest barriers to a good quality of life for persons with disabilities. Rojewski (1992) reported that rural settings often have higher rates of unemployment and limited job availability than urban areas. To highlight the scarcity of jobs in rural centers, Cordes (1989) reported that the majority of available jobs in rural settings are in small businesses. Although rural employment has grown by only 4% since 1979 compared to a 13% employment growth rate for urban settings (Rojewski, 1992); many rural settings simply do not have the variety of businesses and industries necessary to provide job training and ultimately gainful employment for residents (Leland & Schneider, 1982 [as cited in Rojewski, 1992]). Hacker (1995) reported that the unemployment rate for African Americans and White Americans in 1993 was 10.2 and 4.9 respectively. Because the unemployment rate for African Americans has always been twice that of European Americans in the United States (Hacker, 1995), the outlook for obtaining equal employment in rural centers for people of color with disabilities seems quite bleak.

Rural Social Psychology and Race

In earlier years, the psychiatric literature had devoted plenty of attention to comparing the depression rates of African Americans and European Americans (Badcock, 1895). It was universal knowledge that it was customary to not only compare the races, but to label people of color with mental illnesses that adversely impacted on their daily activities of survival. It is this unfortunate legacy that mental health professionals in rural centers who are mental health professionals must continue to fight against to provide adequate services to all eligible citizens who would be potential clientele.

People of color in rural communities may face an even more discouraging outlook with service accommodations, given that many rural communities are also associated with the rural underclass. The term "underclass" was once exclusively associated with individuals from urban areas throughout the United States (Lòpez-De Fede (1998). Thus, the relatively voluminous numbers of high school dropouts and mothers who are unmarried in rural areas, has given an even closer association to underclassness to both urban and rural communities. Once more, to illustrate the high poverty rates in rural areas, O'Hare (1988) observed that rural populations are more likely to participate in such programs as public assistance and are more likely not to graduate from college compared to their urban counter parts. Given these unsettling demographic descriptions, being able to discern patterns of services that are unique to rural America is not only important, but a necessary call to action for rehabilitation professionals serving the non-metropolitan clientele. More importantly, "the delivery of services in rural areas to individuals with disabilities requires that providers take into account not only factors as socioeconomic characteristics, population density, topography, but also ethnicity and [race]" (Lòpez-De Fede (1998, p. 27). Although many would see no need to consider race when serving potential clients, we agree with the Lòpez-De Fede (1998) assertion that race and ethnicity impacts ones' experiences in either rural or urban areas.

While it is apparent that socioeconomic status (SES) and ethnicity are important variables to consider when addressing the needs of all people with disabilities in rural communities, race seems to be a principal variable when viewing and interpreting discrepancies between people of color and non-minorities (Atkins & Wright, 1980; Hacker, 1995; Jackson & Wilson, 2001). For example, when one compares African Americans and European Americans who live in rural areas, African Americans tend to have lower educational attainment, inadequate health care and nutrition, and have a higher level of disease contagion. Although the status of African Americans may not rest solely on racism and bias in these rural centers, one cannot rule out the idea that these discrepancies between minorities and non-minorities in the rural centers is nothing but a microcosm of the rest of society, which is articulated by several research teams (see Rubin et al., 1995; Sue, 1994; Thomas & Sillen, 1972; Wilson, 2000).    

Similar to African Americans living in urban centers across the United States, Lòpez-De Fede (1998) speculated that the soaring poverty rates among African-American offspring in the rural South might be a manifestation of the high unemployment rates of young adult African-Americans. Lòpez-De Fede goes on to adduce that the high poverty rates of Hispanics/Latinos are similar to that of African Americans living in rural centers of the country. African Americans may encounter more prejudice because of the environmental factors associated with rural areas (e.g., isolated in comparison to urban areas and low population density). 

Hacker (1995) revealed startling evidence that the hue of one’s skin is an all too common occurrence when searching for financial, social, and educational equality:

In the eyes of white Americans, being black encapsulates your identity. No other racial or national origin is seen as having so pervasive a personality or character (flaw). Even if you write a book on Euclidean algorithms or Renaissance sculpture, you will still be described as a “black author” (Hacker, 1995, p. 36-37).

Hacker's (1995) report is a harsh reality for people of color in the United States and in rural communities. It appears from Hacker’s (1995) point of view that if one is African American, initially, race defines how you are treated and evaluated when negotiating for housing, bank loans, and a job. In truth, negative reactions are likely to project themselves in innumerable ways, including: (1) exclusion from social and vocational events, (2) job discrimination practices in hiring and promotion, and (3) isolation, if one reflects idiosyncrasies affiliated with the African American masses (e.g., black slang, rap music, etc.). Regardless of race, if behaviors are not reinforced by the European American culture, one is likely to experience prejudice and discrimination. However, as pointed out by Hacker, European Americans are likely to judge African Americans more brutally than any other racial group in the United States. Wright (1983) submits that the subjugation of people of color stems from an ethnocentric attitude by European Americans towards non-European Americans:

Ethnocentrism is the tendency to view one's own cultural group as the center of everything, the standard against which all others are judged. It assumes that one's own cultural patterns are the correct and best way to act. Historically, many whites have judged culturally different persons in terms of the values and behaviors of their white culture. This lack of understanding and respect for ethnic and cultural differences may lead to discrimination, which can be conveyed both subtly and overly (Vitaliti, 1998, p. 219).

Eventually, ethnocentric attitudes and behaviors will be projected on individuals and cultures that deviate from the norm of the larger society. Although not uniquely a rural phenomena, Vitaliti and Rounds (1988) hypothesized that the informal communication structures in rural settings can produce inaccurate information about certain groups. Thus, stereotypes projected in the media (print and/or written) are likely to fuel these negative perceptions of African Americans living in rural areas of the country. It is also asserted by the authors that biased attitudes are more overt, thus, more prevalent in rural than urban areas of the country.

Assisting People of Color In Rural Communities

                Assisting people of color in rural communities should involve a holistic approach. "All parts of the culture must be seen within the larger context. To isolate one component or subsystem is to ignore the cultural complexity of the group itself" (Vitaliti, 1998, p., 200). The following should assist VR counselors provide better assistance to people of color in rural America:

Learning about how different cultures perceive disabilities. For example, Correa (1992) reported that Hispanic families tend to be enablers towards their children with disabilities. Correa also observed that these enabling behaviors by Hispanic parents can conflict with the goals of the VR counselor for the client's independence.

Applying cultural relativity when serving people of color. For example, some races may feel more comfortable bringing family members to their appointments. Of course, because the dominant culture values independence, European American VR counselors may not welcome having a family member brought to appointments.

Respecting all cultures. The tendency to think one's own culture is superior to others, is called ethnocentrism. This lack of respect for other cultures can lead to discrimination and prejudice (Vitaliti, 1998).

CONCLUSION

Although scarcely documented in mainstream literature, there is mounting evidence that the fields of psychology and psychiatry perpetuated numerous mental and physical disorders in the African American population to continue the subjugation process of physical and mental bondage and other kinds of oppression in the western hemisphere. The Tuskegee Syphilis experiment is only one example of a carelessly conducted health-related study that devastated African Americans in a southern rural community and resulted in several deaths of Black male participants.

It is imperative to acknowledge the influence of race and culture in rural communities when serving people of color. The biases and prejudices in urban centers are considered microcosms of what people of color face not only in rural areas, but also in many milieus in this country. To that end, we conclude this paper with two important quotes to highlight the importance of considering culture and race in rural communities for people with disabilities. Herbert and Cheatham (1988) submit the following pertaining cultural influences and rehabilitation counseling:

Cultural factors have an important influence on the rehabilitation counseling process because many of the psychological theories and techniques to promote personal, social, and vocational adjustment are embedded in a Eurocentric model. However, a substantial body of information exists to demonstrate the inadequacy of Eurocentric models to address the needs and interests of Black Americans (p. 51).

and

Cultural variables affecting persons with disabilities such as values and beliefs, rehabilitation expectations and attitudes towards disabilities must be taken into consideration when providing rehabilitation services. If these variables are not taken into consideration, rehabilitation services will not be successful and they will only waste time, money and human value (Wong-Hernandez, 1993, p. 31).

In many instances, cultural insensitivity on the part of the counselor may result in intake and assessment problems within the rehabilitation system (Pape, Walker, Quinn, 1983). Lastly, in a focus group study by Sheppard et at. (1995), participants of the focus group viewed rehabilitation service providers as perpetuating discrimination based on disability, and this bias was comparative to the general population. Additionally, participants “also view rehabilitation service providers as failing to understand the influence of culture on perceptions of disability” (p. 37). It seems like race, culture, and socioeconomic status are not only important variables to consider when working with people with disabilities in rural communities who are people of color, but understanding how race and culture influences how one is treated within the large context of society is even more important to helping people who may look or sound different than ourselves. Although rural areas provide important contributions and unique features to the fabric of the United States, people of color who just happen to have a disability, may suffer more than individuals in urban centers. We must all strive to treat all people with dignity and respect, regardless of their physical appearance lest we forfeit our collective sense of humanity!

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Authors Note

Keith B. Wilson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Counselor Education, Counseling Psychology, and Rehabilitation Services; Dothel W. Edwards, Jr. is a Clinical Coordinator/Assistant Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Services; Reginald J. Alston is an Associate Professor in the Department of Community Health; Debra A. Harley is an Associate Professor in the Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation Counseling; Jhan D. Doughty is a Doctoral Candidate and Instructor in the Department of Counselor Education, Counseling Psychology. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Keith B. Wilson, Department of Counselor Education, Counseling Psychology, and Rehabilitation Services, 308 CEDAR Building, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802-3110. Telephone (814) 863-2413. Electronic mail may be sent via the Internet to: KBW4@PSU.EDU.