Vocational Rehabilitation and the Dilemma of
in Rural Communities:
Realities and Myths from the Past
Pennsylvania State University
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
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
in Rural Communities:
Sociopolitical Realities and Myths from the Past
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.
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
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).
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.
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:
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).
Sue (1994) asserted that the counseling profession needs a sociopolitical
reality and confirmed a connection between racism, the counseling profession,
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
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.
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
As we will continually illustrate throughout this paper, people of color
with disabilities face even greater challenges when living in rural centers.
(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.
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
to diverse groups are perpetuated from one-generation
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.
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
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.
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 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
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.
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
revealed startling evidence that the hue of one’s skin is an all too common
occurrence when searching for financial, social, and educational equality:
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).
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:
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).
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:
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
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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
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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.