Abstract: Needs of and Barriers to Achieving a Livable Life Among Refugees with Disabilities: A Scoping Review (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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645P Needs of and Barriers to Achieving a Livable Life Among Refugees with Disabilities: A Scoping Review

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Mustafa Rfat, MSW, MPA, PhD student, Washington University in Saint Louis, MO
Yingying Zeng, Ph.D Candidate; MSW; MSP;, Doctoral student, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO
Yibin Yang, MSW, PhD student, Boston University, MA
Kusum Adhikari, Master's student, Adelphi University, NY
Yiqi Zhu, PhD, Assistant Professor, Adelphi University, Garden City, NY
Background: Refugees with disabilities encounter many barriers to accessing essential services in both transition and resettlement countries due to language difficulties, negative societal attitudes, and lack of awareness of existing programs (Bonet & Taylor, 202). The exact number of refugees with disabilities is unknown, but a recent report showed out of 25.4 million registered refugees, 9.3 million reported having disabilities (Hoagland, 2019). However, refugees with disabilities are understudied. This scoping review researched the needs of disabled refugees and identified barriers to access social services. Findings can further improve social work practices with disabled refugees at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels.

Methods: This review was guided by the framework of Arksey and O’Malley (2005). A systematic search of 15 databases was conducted to identify peer-reviewed articles published between 2000 and 2022. Studies were included if they were empirical peer-reviewed English-language studies with a focus on disabled refugees and asylum seekers in both hosting and resettlement countries. Articles were excluded if they were review work or focused on mental health issues. Studies were each reviewed independently by two researchers. Data from the included articles were charted, interpreted, and synthesized.

Results: Out of 1563 unique articles, 39 studies met the inclusion criteria. The most frequently discussed need of refugees with disabilities is inclusive education. Hosting countries may lack resources to provide accommodations and appropriate teacher training; whereas, in resettlement countries the resources might exist but the refugee families may not be aware of their rights to access these resources. Healthcare is the second most frequently discussed need. In hosting countries, due to the lack of economic resources and services, refugees with disabilities were not able to access essential services for preventable and treatable diseases. In resettlement countries, though they might have health insurance or basic social benefits, they do not have enough support to navigate the healthcare system, and healthcare providers also lack sufficient knowledge and skills in communication. The third most discussed need was vocational opportunities and training to enable refugees with disabilities to obtain sustainable economic resources and social connections. Although the needs of disabled refugees may differ in transition and resettlement countries, refugees with disabilities require professional services that are inclusive and accessible.

Implications: This scoping review demonstrates the lack of sufficient and appropriate resources and services catering to the diverse needs of refugees with disabilities. To fill this gap, future practices and policies in both hosting and resettlement countries and communities should build upon these existing empirical findings and seek practical solutions to better assist these refugees in overcoming the multisystemic perplexities and challenges as they transition to new living arrangements. Advocacy groups can play a crucial role to empower disabled refugees to become aware of their rights. Quantitative research and mix-method studies are needed to generate evidence to inform large-scale policy intervention. Effective policy making and implementation process should take into consideration of the diverse stakeholders working closely with refugee with disabilities. Additionally, evidence-based refugee services also call for international collaboration amid the global refugee crisis.