Overcoming barriers to achieve successful adulthood for low-income African-American students with disabilities

Date of Completion

January 2001


Black Studies|Education, Educational Psychology|Education, Special|Psychology, Developmental




An African-American in this society must adapt to varying dilemmas and esoteric factors that are focused upon one due to the color of one's skin (Wyatt, 1977). We all function in a society that purposefully, indifferently, or by reason of ignorance, fails to recognize that racial discrimination exists, and that this circumstance is life threatening not only for African-Americans but also for all Americans (Wyatt, 1997). ^ A person who is Affican-American, low-income, and has a disability, faces a triple threat to his/her potential to be a future successful, and productive member of society (Shapiro, Loeb, Bowermaster, Wright, Headden, Toch & Wright, 1993). Many of these individuals languish in special education programs much of their school lives, then afterwards are thrust into a world unprepared, fearful, and disillusioned about their future (Shapiro et al., 1993). Occasionally, however, someone breaks through these barriers, and against the odds, becomes a successful adult. ^ By the use of qualitative research methods, the processes that a sample of successful young adults with disabilities from low income backgrounds applied in overcoming barriers and inadequate services was investigated. The identification of these processes has implications for others with similar characteristics. In addition, this investigation examined; (1) the role of special education in preparing these young adults for life after school, (2) the special education programs that promoted multi-cultural nurturing that empowered each one to obtain success while living with potential barriers, and (3) those programs in need of improvement in meeting both global barriers, (i.e., racism, poverty, and educational) and individual barriers, (i.e., parents' voices that are not heard, parents who alter their schedules to meet special education demands, and subtle forms of racism). ^