Service needs and service gaps among refugees with disabilities resettled in the United States

Mansha Mirza*, Allen W. Heinemann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Purpose: To examine the adequacy of existing service systems in addressing the needs of refugees with disabilities resettled in the USA. Methods: A cross-disability group of eight Cambodian and seven Somali refugees were purposively selected to participate in a 2-year qualitative study in the Midwestern USA. Ten disability/refugee service providers and key experts on refugee resettlement were also recruited to participate. Data sources included in-depth interviews, focus groups, participant observations and social network surveys with disabled refugees. Participant observations and semi-structured interviews were also conducted with service providers and key experts. Data were analyzed using coding procedures based on a grounded theory approach. Results: Disabled refugee participants experienced several unmet disability-related needs and limited access to resettlement resources on account of their disability. These findings were associated with refugee service providers having limited awareness of disability rights and resources and a narrow biomedical perspective of disability. Additionally there was a disconnection between refugee and disability service systems resulting from resource limitations within agencies, mistrust between the different service entities, and a lack of cross-cultural nuance among disability service organizations. These findings contribute important insights to the literature on disability disparities. Conclusions: Disabled refugees resettled in the USA have many unmet needs associated with gaps in-service delivery stemming from disconnections between refugee and disability service systems. Implications for Rehabilitation As a result of large-scale immigration, the USA and other developed societies are becoming increasingly diverse; resettled refugees represent one source of diversity. Service delivery systems need to evolve in order to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse client base. In a qualitative study involving 15 refugee participants, this study shows that disabled refugees resettled in the USA experience unmet needs as a result of gaps in-service delivery. There is a need for dialogue, networking and resource-sharing between refugee and disability service organizations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)542-552
Number of pages11
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2012


  • Cross-cultural services
  • Disparities
  • Refugees
  • USA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation


Dive into the research topics of 'Service needs and service gaps among refugees with disabilities resettled in the United States'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this