Asians with Disabilities Face Unique Challenges

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Dr. Peter Wong shares data on disabled Asian Pacific Islanders at a press conference held on Dec. 12. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

Asians and Pacific Islanders with Disabilities of California (APIDC) held a press conference at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center on Dec. 12 announcing findings and recommendations from a major study outlining the disparities and employment barriers faced by Asian Americans with disabilities.

Dr. Peter Wong, research director of APIDC, reported on his findings. Among the highlights was interview data showing that Asian Americans with disabilities want to find jobs and attain economic independence but face tremendous barriers within the Asian American communities and the larger mainstream American society.

Only 9.2 percent of non-English-speaking Asians Americans with disabilities are employed, lower than all other ethnic groups. Only 7.0 percent of non-English-speaking Asian Americans women with disabilities are employed, the lowest employment rate of any comparison group.

Among his recommendations, Wong proposed to organize and support a permanent coalition as a lead national advocacy organization; strengthen the capacity of Asian American community-based organizations to address disability issues; conduct leadership training for individuals with disabilities and their families; and sponsor national Asian American disability conferences.

California State Controller John Chiang spoke about the important role that the research could play in helping Asian Americans with disabilities to access government services, pointing out that APIs are the fastest-growing minority in the state.

Mark Matsui, director of Disabled Students Programs and Services at Rio Hondo College in Whittier and immediate past president of the California Association of Postsecondary Education and Disability, said the research findings will be critical in helping to shape how programs are designed and offered in his college setting.

Patricia Kinaga, APIDC board member, described information and programmatic gaps in providing services to Asians and Pacific Islanders (APIs) with disabilities, and noted that APIDC discovered early on that data and research on APIs with disabilities are practically non-existent.

Stewart Kwoh, president/executive director of APALC and board member of APIDC, stated, “These research findings are important to support public policy and programmatic changes for this invisible population.”

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  1. So how do we best get the information out to the communities? is Non English speaking being compared to English speaking other minorities? With so many CA community college cutbacks how do we push to add more ESL classes and get as many people in those classes as possible?
    I would think the help to be able to communicate would be the best first step to help those who could work. If people can be tested to be average or above in IQ , it would seem that they can be most quickly placed into education and helped to manage job training despite initial language barriers.

    It might be nice to have volunteers / student interns do “conversation classes”. Sit around at a coffee shop and just talk, or get together do a craft or other project, to help people who need exposure develop conversational English faster.

    What solutions are being proposed?

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