A Portland State psychology professor and a doctoral student received a $62,250 grant in February to assess and improve Oregon’s rehabilitative services for minorities with disabilities. Katie McDonald, an assistant professor of psychology, and Shannon Myrick, a psychology department doctoral student, will use the funding to document the impact of Oregon rehabilitative services on ethnic minorities who have disabilities.
A Portland State psychology professor and a doctoral student received a $62,250 grant in February to assess and improve Oregon’s rehabilitative services for minorities with disabilities.
Katie McDonald, an assistant professor of psychology, and Shannon Myrick, a psychology department doctoral student, will use the funding to document the impact of Oregon rehabilitative services on ethnic minorities who have disabilities. McDonald and Myrick will then work to develop more culturally sensitive and proficient services in Oregon.
“People with disabilities are offered a limited amount of services and provided few opportunities in our society, and this is even more the case for ethnic minorities with disabilities,” McDonald said.
“These are the people at the absolute bottom of our totem pole,” Myrick added.
The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research is funding the three-year study. The philosophy of the institute is that the application of gained cultural awareness, knowledge and skills will allow service providers to work effectively with individuals from different cultures.
The institute also aims to recognize and challenge racism and other forms of discrimination and ethnocentric segregation. It works to build the capacity of state vocational rehabilitation agencies and community based-organizations to document the impact of their programs in order to develop more culturally sensitive services.
“An obvious example would be if you’re Latino and have a disability,” McDonald said. “Chances are you would probably greatly benefit from a provider who offers services tailored for the Latino culture. This means providers who speak Spanish, providers who are familiar with their unique struggles and needs, providers who are ultimately trained to work with that particular population and their history.”
The same basic idea applies to all other ethnic minority populations, McDonald said. She said she and Myrick hope to create relationships and collaborate with local organizations by finding out how to establish organizations that service ethnic minorities.
“Once a relationship is established, we’ll evaluate their programs and start spending the bulk of our funding accordingly,” McDonald said. “We can’t possibly know what our impact needs to be if we don’t know who’s out there and what they are doing.”
Myrick said the two plan to begin by working with one organization, and then she hopes to expand her research so that she can work with at least two or three organizations.
“In the end, we could be offering training workshops, bringing guest speakers and specialist in, providing some financial assistance,” Myrick said.
“It’s just not clear at this point, but we definitely want our contribution to be self-sustainable,” McDonald said.
McDonald received her Ph.D. in community psychology from the University of Illinois, Chicago, and is now an assistant professor of psychology at PSU. Although a new-comer to Portland and unfamiliar with the existing condition of Oregon programs, she said she is confident with her plan and sees the grant as an opportunity to learn a great deal about her new home.
Myrick received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon and is currently a doctoral student of applied developmental psychology. Myrick has always been interested in psychology and minority issues, and said that this study is an exciting confluence of the two.
McDonald also received a $10,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for a project that will study hiring workers with disabilities. McDonald will work with researchers at DePaul University, Chicago, on the project called The Economic Impact Study: A Cost Benefit Analysis to Hiring Workers with Disabilities.