The Need for Culturally Appropriate Strategies in Promoting Self-Determination Among Individuals with Disabilities

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Patricia Welch Saleeby


culture, empowerment, diversity


While strategies promoting self-determination have been effective in the United States and other Westernized countries, these identical approaches and “best practices” are not necessarily effective in cultures that do not embrace the same individualistic values.  In these settings and situations, culturally appropriate approaches are necessary to engage these individuals with disabilities and their families while promoting similar principles underlying self-determination, empowerment, social justice, and rights. This article provides an overview of some traditional strategies promoting self-determination and/or empowerment and then discusses how these are not always useful in practicing with culturally diverse population groups even in the United States. Alternative approaches are described such as the access to culturally diverse resources and community-based rehabilitation that adhere to specific cultural beliefs, values, and practices but still promote some level of empowerment among individuals with disabilities. Evidence drawn from the literature as well as professional experience will be used to discuss the relevance and implementation of these respective strategies in terms of their strengths – namely, empowering individuals with disabilities as well as supporting/embracing family, religion, spirituality, and overall cultural diversity.
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