Understanding Minority Youth with Disabilities Through Data and Personal Experience

Understanding Minority Youth with Disabilities Through Data and Personal Experience

Youth inform outreach and programs, while American Community Survey data reveal key characteristics of youth with disabilities.
Dec 14, 2022
Family of mom and young teen or preteen boy and girl sitting on a couch smiling and looking at a computer screen

Youth and young adults with disabilities, particularly those from racial and ethnic minority backgrounds, face barriers that their peers do not when transitioning to adulthood. Community-based organizations called Centers for Independent Living (CIL), which are run by and for people with disabilities, are in a key position to assist young adults who are no longer in school. New resources released by the Minority Youth and Centers for Independent Living project can help CILs better serve these young adults.

A series of briefs describes the findings from focus groups in which young adults with disabilities from racial and ethnic minority backgrounds shared personal experiences that could help CILs improve outreach and programs for similar youth. The first brief focuses on how CILs can effectively reach out to youth with disabilities from minority backgrounds. Participants thought that CILs should provide clear information that focuses on the content, structure, and purpose of activities in their outreach materials, as well as tell them what to expect, including details about available accommodations. Youth also demonstrated that CILs have a broader social media reach than just the consumers that they serve, which provides an important opportunity for CILs to invite new members and build connections by encouraging engagement such as interactions on posts.

The second brief describes ways that CILs can keep youth engaged. The participants said their first impressions were key when deciding whether to stay involved in a new group or program. They recommended that staff provide a warm welcome, get to know people, and ensure programs and activities are free from judgement and discrimination. CILs can reflect their dedication to creating environments that are authentic and free from discrimination by working with people who use their services to establish a code of conduct and actively enforcing it.

The third brief describes the kind of programs and activities participants would enjoy and value. Focus group participants shared that CILs should prioritize youth’s preferences when planning the structure and content of programs and activities, which can offer a blend of instruction, support, and fun experiences. They also suggested forming social support groups to help youth discuss their identities and disabilities as well as mentorship programs to provide individualized support.

To help CILs better understand the youth in their communities and who they are serving, Mathematica gathered and organized data from the American Community Survey from 2009 to 2019 into an interactive map and CIL-specific data briefs for counties and CILs across the United States. These resources present statistics on the education, employment, race, and ethnicity of people ages 16 to 24 who have a disability, are not working, and are not in school. The data briefs provide CILs with statistics on the population of youth and young adults who live in their service areas. They also compare the information about the local population with characteristics of CIL customers of all ages. CILs can use this information to reflect on the communities living in specific service areas and gauge how well they are serving youth from minority backgrounds. The data can help inform new outreach efforts, cultural changes to CIL programs, or grant applications to fund new programs to better serve minority populations.

Check out more information about the Minority Youth and Centers for Independent Living project and additional resources here.

About the Minority Youth and Centers for Independent Living Project

The Minority Youth and Centers for Independent Living project is a collaborative effort of Hunter College; the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York; Independent Living Research Utilization; and Mathematica. The project aims to improve outcomes for out-of-school youth and young adults (ages 14 to 24) with disabilities. Specifically, it seeks to produce and share knowledge that empowers CILs to improve outcomes for youth and young adults with significant disabilities from nationally recognized racial and ethnic minority groups who have completed or otherwise left secondary education.

This project is jointly funded under grant number 90DPGE0013 as a cooperative agreement between the Office of Independent Living Programs and the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, both in the Administration for Community Living, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The contents of these resources do not necessarily represent the policy of DHHS, and readers should not assume endorsement by the federal government.