Service needs and service gaps among refugees with disabilities resettled in the United States

Mansha Mirza, Allen W Heinemann
Disability and Rehabilitation 2012, 34 (7): 542-52

PURPOSE: To examine the adequacy of existing service systems in addressing the needs of refugees with disabilities resettled in the U.S.A.

METHODS: A cross-disability group of eight Cambodian and seven Somali refugees were purposively selected to participate in a 2-year qualitative study in the Midwestern U.S.A. Ten disability/refugee service providers and key experts on refugee resettlement were also recruited to participate. Data sources included in-depth interviews, focus groups, participant observations and social network surveys with disabled refugees. Participant observations and semi-structured interviews were also conducted with service providers and key experts. Data were analyzed using coding procedures based on a grounded theory approach.

RESULTS: Disabled refugee participants experienced several unmet disability-related needs and limited access to resettlement resources on account of their disability. These findings were associated with refugee service providers having limited awareness of disability rights and resources and a narrow biomedical perspective of disability. Additionally there was a disconnection between refugee and disability service systems resulting from resource limitations within agencies, mistrust between the different service entities, and a lack of cross-cultural nuance among disability service organizations. These findings contribute important insights to the literature on disability disparities.

CONCLUSIONS: Disabled refugees resettled in the U.S.A. have many unmet needs associated with gaps in-service delivery stemming from disconnections between refugee and disability service systems.

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