Empowering Immigrant Patients with Disabilities: Advocating and Self-Advocating

Chieh Li, EdD, Louis Kruger, PsyD, Kalyani Krishnan, MA


This article explores how to improve health care for immigrant patients with disabilities from an empowerment framework that encompasses both advocacy and self-advocacy. Immigrants with disabilities face multiple challenges in adapting to life in a new country. In addition to obstacles related to their disabilities, they must overcome cultural and linguistic barriers, acculturative stress, prejudice and discrimination. Furthermore, many recent immigrants have limited financial resources. They also confront many of these same barriers in the health care system along with numerous structural, environmental, and process-related obstacles. Health professionals can empower immigrant patients with disabilities in multiple ways, including (a) providing culturally sensitive services; (b) communicating to them in their native language; (c) learning about Americans with Disabilities Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and other federal and state laws that protect the rights of individuals with disabilities; and (d) informing immigrant patients about their rights and available resources. Most importantly, health professionals can advocate for these patients’ healthcare needs and help them to develop the skills to self-advocate. Self-advocacy can be facilitated by means of training in assertiveness and related communication skills, which are consistent to the patients’ goals and cultural values.

[N A J Med Sci. 2016;9(3):116-122.   DOI:  10.7156/najms.2016.0903116]


immigrant patients, disabilities, empowering, advocating, Self-Advocating

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