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Native Americans with Disabilities Don't Get Services

The National Council on Disability (NCD)  has released a new report that documents that American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) with disabilities living in tribal lands are not receiving the services to which they are entitled.

The report, "People with Disabilities on Tribal Lands: Education, Health Care, Vocational Rehabilitation, and Independent Living,"  reflects the results of a project that was developed and guided to completion in collaboration with AI/AN representatives of people with disabilities, their families, and tribal leaders.

NCD is an independent federal agency that makes recommendations to the President and Congress on disability policy issues and represents all people with disabilities, "regardless of severity or age and from culturally diverse populations."

NCD has targeted the significant unmet needs of unserved and underserved people with disabilities, including people from diverse cultures, as a policy priority. People from diverse cultures constitute a disproportionate share of the disability community, and they also have unique needs in addition to those experienced by other people with disabilities.

With an estimated 22 percent disability prevalence rate, according to national research data, American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest rate of disabilities and lowest opportunity for access to culturally sensitive programs and services of all races.

This situation is compounded by factors such as high poverty and school dropout rates, geographic isolation from state or local district rehabilitation services and health care, and limited employment options.

This project examined research on health, rehabilitation, independent living, and education issues that affect people with disabilities living in tribal lands. The report discusses views and perspectives of AI/AN people with disabilities, tribal leaders, and representatives of federal agencies identified as productive in meeting this population's needs. The report also assesses and recommends improvements in government-to-government (state to sovereign tribal to federal government) relationships needed for effective coordination across existing federally funded projects and programs.

In addition, "Understanding Disabilities in American Indian and Alaska Native Communities: Toolkit Guide,"  which provides resource information, was developed for use by consumers, tribal communities, and others at state, local, and federal levels."

August 2003



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