Barriers Disabled Children, Youth and or Adults from Ethnic Minorities Face

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Barriers Disabled Children, Youth and or Adults from EthnicMinorities Face


Millions of children, youth and adults are living with disabilitiesglobally. Disabled people face many barriers in society, whichinclude denial of access to opportunities that limit theirdevelopment. It is especially difficult for disabled people fromethnic minorities who face the double barriers of being disabled andat the same time belonging to ethnic minorities. The barriersdisabled ethnic minorities face includes barriers to employment,effective health care, education and inclusion in the family. In thefollowing discussion, the research compares and contrasts thebarriers between United Kingdom and Singapore context, discusses moreon the barriers to inclusion in the context of the family and in theconclusion, analyzes the developing understanding of familyresistance and resilience to oppression and disablement.

According to Edmonds (2005:1), there exist 600 million individualsliving with disabilities globally, which is 10% of the globalpopulation. Considering the effect of disability on relatives, thelifestyle of above 800 million persons in the globe are affected.Most disabled children, youth and adults from ethnic minoritiescontinue to be invisible in society. They face numerous barriers thatcompel them to poverty. Disabled people face denial of access toopportunities that result in human development.

As disabled people they are incapable of accessing resources in thesame way as those without disabilities. Coming from ethnic minoritygroups, they face the challenge of being members of underservedcommunities, which further intricate their inclusion in society(National Rehabilitation Information Center, 2010:1). Hence,disabled minorities face the double challenge of belonging toethnically minority groups as well as being disabled. As a group,disabled minorities are at greater peril, have lesser access toresources, and fare poorly when compared to minorities with nodisabilities (Leung &amp Wright, 1993:17).

Barriers Disabled Children, Youth and or Adults from EthnicMinorities Face

Barriers to employment

Disabled individuals are less likely to participate in theworkforce. Research demonstrates that disabled adults are highlymarginalized when seeking employment. The marginalization is higherfor disabled persons from ethnic minorities. This is because jobopportunities are most likely to be given to individuals that are notfrom ethnic minority groups. There is a low representation ofminorities in the workface, and the situation is further enhanced bydisability. According to Maynard (2011:1), many disabled individualsdemonstrate a desire to work. However, they encounter numerousbarriers, which make it difficult for them to actively participate inemployment. There is an outright bias amid the employment of disabledversus not disabled people. Disabled individual’s employment ratesare 50% when compared to above 75% for the general working population(Maynard, 2011:1). In the United Kingdom, the level of unemploymentamong disabled individuals is 38%, when compared to 26% for thosethat have no disabilities (Magoulios &amp Trichopoulou, 2012:39).This contrasts to Singapore, where the percentage is higher at 53.3%for disabled persons (Choon, Shi’en &amp Chan, 2008:22).

In both the United Kingdom and Singapore, a common reason for lowemployment among disabled minorities is employers’ attitude. Someemployers presume that individuals with disabilities have a higherlikelihood of under-performing at work (DPA, 2015:10). However,employers fail to realize that provided with suitable workingenvironments, disabled persons can perform as effectively as thosewithout disabilities or even better (DPA, 2015:10). Most workenvironments are not modeled to accommodate workers that havedisabilities. Even when considered capable of working, employers failto comprehend the challenges disabled employees encounter or supportrequired in dealing with the challenges (Maynard, 2011:1). Also, evenwhen workers with disabilities manage to get employment, they have todeal with more barriers in the workplace. For instance, it is highlyunlikely that a person will get promoted despite working in a companyfor years. An individual may also be compelled to work in the similarrole for years (DPA, 2015:12). Regardless of the educationalqualifications that make disabled persons suitable candidates forspecific work positions, they still face marginalization due to theirethnicity (United Nations, n.d). Coming from marginalizedsocieties, they are less likely than civilians to get employed.

Barriers to effective health care

Disabled children and youth have a greater incidence of healthproblems with their average age of death being 25 years young whencompared to the general population (Glover &amp Ayub, 2010:1). Thisis because the disabled population encounters impartialities inaccess to health care, owing to institutional discrimination and passaway from causes that can be avoided. Various qualitative researcheshave examined the experiences of persons with disability, as well astheir carers, when accessing health care. The same challenges arefaced by disabled children, youth and adults from the United Kingdomand Singapore. Barriers highlighted comprise of communicationchallenges that result in the exclusion of persons with disabilityfrom consultations general practitioners ignore the need to carryout health review for disabled patients poor health promotion orscreening and insufficient knowhow by doctors concerning the healthneeds of persons with disability (Ali et al., 2013:1). Other barriershighlighted in hospitals are lack of support at meal times or whenneed arises to go to the toilet, improper administering of medicationand insufficient discharge arrangement (Ali et al., 2013:1).

In many health care structures, ethnic minorities encounter poorerhealth because of barriers in access to healthcare services. In theUnited Kingdom, similar to different nations, the increase indifferent ethnic societies and linguistic populations, each havingtheir unique cultures, make it challenging for health care providersto attain fair health care access. There are apparent healthdisparities for ethnic minorities in the UK when compared to otherpopulations (Szczepura, 2005:141). Similarly, in Singapore, there aredisparities in accessing health care for the different ethnic groups(Wee et al., 2013:1-2). A major reason for the differences in bothnations is cultural barriers. Also, costs associated with accessingcare make it impossible for minorities to effectively access care.For persons with disabilities and coming from ethnic minoritypopulations, it can only mean that it becomes much harder to accesshealth care. The barriers to effective care coupled with those facedby ethnic minorities imply that disabled children, youth and adultsdo not get adequate health care.

Barriers to education

Disabled children, specifically from minority communities face typesof exclusion from as well as within schools. Schools employ differentexclusion strategies that make it intricate for disabled children toenroll in normal learning programs (Swan, n.d:1). For instance, manyschools use competitive models to attract learners to their schools.The model fails to promote fairness for minorities as they do notsupport inclusive education. When schools compete for learners, theywill select those that add value to the school instead of those thatrequire more care (PSYCH Publications, 2011:12). Hence, marginalizingdisabled minority children as they are rarely selected to attend suchschools engaged in competitive models. Also, many countries have acommon examination system. This means that students are gradeddepending on their performance in the common examination. In the UKand illustration is the “General Certificate of Secondary Education(GCSE)”, while an illustration for Singapore is the “PrimarySchool Leaving Examination (PSLE)” (Kearny, 2011:12). Suchexaminations do not put into consideration the needs of disabledchildren, who may require special exams. By using a general gradingsystem, it becomes hard for disabled children to excel at the samelevel with those that have no disabilities thus, reducing thechances for the disabled children to advance their education.

It is not just children that experience barriers to education.Disabled parents are also incapable of taking part in the learningactivities of their children. Research demonstrates that the UK has2.1 million disabled adults with children below the age of 16(Morris, 2004:1). Most governments endorse parents’ participationin the education of their children, and insist that the progress ofchildren at school depends on parent involvement. Nevertheless, thegovernments do not consider the barriers faced by disabled parents inthese involvements. For instance, most schools provide writteninformation concerning the progress of the students (Morris, 2004:7).This means that blind parents are unable to read the progressreports. Another illustration is during open days, when parents aresupposed to visit schools. For parents in wheelchairs, the schools donot make any changes to the building structures that would ease themovement of the parent around the school (Morris, 2004:7-8). Also,different attitudes towards disabled persons coupled with the factthat they belong to ethnic minorities may cause parents to avoidschool meetings hence, they fail to be involved in the progress oftheir children.

Barriers to inclusion in the family

Although children, youth and adults face barriers to employment,accessing healthcare and education in society, they also facebarriers to inclusion within their own families. Disabilities placeimmense demands or problems within a family system. Majority of thedemands are long lasting. Most of the problems depend on the kind ofdisability, age of the individual that has the disability as well askind of family when an individual with disability stays (Turnbull,Beegle &amp Stowe, 2001:139). There is an immense financialchallenge linked with access to quality health care, education orsocial services, purchase of special needs equipment as well asmaking accommodations within the home environment (Thom, 2007:173).The family members also face the problem of having to coordinate carebetween health care providers and care at home. It is apparent thatparents taking care of disabled children, youth or adults face manychallenges.

The daily strain of assisting and caring for persons with disabilityleads to exhaustion or fatigue. It affects the emotional and physicalwellbeing of the family. Emotional strain derives from apprehension,anger, guilt or uncertainty on the reason for a disability (Quah,1997:55). For instance, parents of a young child that is incapable ofwalking, talking or hearing are highly likely to become emotionallydrained due to apprehension about the future of the child. Theparents may also have other children that need their attention, whichenhances their emotional and physical stress. When a child has adisability that makes it impossible for them to be independent, thenthey have to rely on the help of their parents throughout (LeClere&amp Kowalewski, 1994:459). This is seen as a huge investmentoften burdening the financial status of a family. At times, one ofthe caregivers has to stop working to fully concentrate on providingcare to the person with disability (Reichman,Corman, &amp Noonan, 2008:680).

In addition to dealing with the pressure of taking care of disabledchildren, parents also have to deal with societal attitudes. Whenfamilies face enhancing demands for caretaking they feel that thewellbeing of the disabled family member is uncertain. For instance,in disabilities where mental capability has been restricted itappears to be harder for families to cope. This is due to the higherdependency for observation by members of the family (Bindoffet al, 1997:191). Also, the individual has restricted abilityto make responsible decisions, which makes it impossible for them tolive independently. When the mental impairment is extreme, it couldresult in a different type of strain on families as the individual isphysically present yet mentally absent. This type of incongruenceamid physical and psychological presence is referred to boundaryambiguity (Eisenberg, Sutkin &ampJansen, 1984:13). It means that the family is unaware if theindividual is part of them resulting in exclusion of the familymember.

Many family members opt to take their disabled children or relativesto disability institutions (Buys &ampRushworth, 1997:30). At times when there are no significantchanges in the functioning of disabled persons, for instance, theindividual fails to show any signs of dependence, it may be difficultfor the family to continue providing care. Parents need the money tocater for the many needs of the disabled child. However, the childalso requires fulltime care. This means that a parent may becompelled to stop working and dedicate their time to becoming a fulltime caregiver. This in turn results in the challenge of financialstrain as discussed (Altman, Cooper&amp Cunningham, 1999:31). Thus, in order for the parent towork, especially in the case of single parents taking care ofdisabled children, they opt to have the child placed in a disabilityinstitution. The parent pays the institution to take over the role ofcaregiver, and hence it becomes possible to focus more on work.However, parents are also actively involved in visiting their child.The same also applies to family members who take their relatives todisability institutions.


Children, youth and adults with disabilities and from ethnic minoritygroups face many barriers in society. The disabilities make itimpossible to compete in the similar manner for the same resources asthose without disabilities. As a result, disabled minorities arelowly represented in workplaces, do not access quality health care,lack proper education and face family exclusion. The barriers comparein some aspects between the United Kingdom and Singapore. Bothnations have a low employment rate among the disabled, but thepercentage is higher in Singapore. Disabled persons in both countriesencounter the similar challenges when accessing health care andeducation.

However, these barriers have also resulted in the push for morerights and equality for disabled minorities by their family members.Parents for instance have demonstrated resilience in having theirdisabled children excluded from normal learning classrooms. Forinstance, for a child that is confined to a wheelchair, it ispossible for them to have a higher intellectual ability or the samewith that of peers. Thus, parents push for such children to beincluded in the same class with other children without disability. Inthe end, the child gets the similar education qualifications as thelarger population.

Disabled persons have continuously formed unions aimed at fightingfor their rights in different sectors of society. An illustration isin the employment sector. As more disabled youths and adults succeedacademically, they demonstrate a desire to work. However, employersstill hold prejudices against disabled minorities, and theircapability to be productive. Through unions, employers risk beingsued for discrimination and hence have to ensure that they do notdiscriminate against a disabled person on the basis of theirdisability.


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