Groundbreaking Resource Unveiled for Latinx With Disabilities

Free downloadable toolkit available as a resource guide for Latina mothers and other caregivers of school-age children with disabilities

The Coca-Cola Foundation's Vincenzo Piscopo with members of RespectAbility's team

A new school year is challenging to everyone, but it can be exceptionally daunting to disabled members of the Latinx community and their families. But now RespectAbility, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities for people with disabilities, aims to change that.

On Sept. 6 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., RespectAbility will unveil the first-of-its-kind resource geared toward helping Latinx students with disabilities to succeed in academia and beyond. Reporters are invited to join three of the co-authors for lunch at noon at the National Press Club’s Zenger Room. RSVPs to are required to attend.  

There is a vast talent in Latinx kids with disabilities, we just need to unleash it. When we ensure that Latinx kids with disabilities have access to the same opportunities as everybody else, they not only win but society as a whole wins.

Vincenzo Piscopo, Community and Stakeholder Relations Director of The Coca-Cola Foundation

“There is a vast talent in Latinx kids with disabilities, we just need to unleash it,” said Vincenzo Piscopo, community and stakeholder relations director of The Coca-Cola Foundation. “When we ensure that Latinx kids with disabilities have access to the same opportunities as everybody else, they not only win but society as a whole wins.”

Many Latinx students with a disability are unequipped with the tools they need to succeed in school. And often family members are unfamiliar with the best practices to help them fully thrive. Statistics illustrate the negative effects lacking support can have on students and their families not just in school but later in the job market as well.  

Dr. Victor Pineda, a consultant to RespectAbility who co-authored the guide, said: “Our goal is to help address the critical need for information, guidance and support for parents in the Latinx community who may have a child with a disability. As an immigrant parent, I want to inspire other parents to support their children and set high expectations for their community. Doing so will strengthen our community as a whole and elevate our collective potential.”

Pineda is president of World Enabled as well as the Global Alliance for Accessible Technology and Environments. He is a recognized leader in inclusive urban development and human rights.        

Edith Espiritu, Stephanie Farfan and Paola Vergara Acevedo co-authored this resource guide with Pineda. Espiritu is the parent coordinator and outreach for Fiesta Educativa, whose mission is to provide information and training to Latino families on how to obtain services for all people with disabilities. Farfan is a self-advocate who identifies as a little person. She is RespectAbility’s Policy, Practices and Latinx Outreach Associate. Vergara Acevedo is the mother of a child with a disability. She also is the co-chair of RespectAbility’s Spanish-Language Committee.

There are 4,869,400 Latinx people living with a disability in the United States. Approximately half are women.

“Latinas with disabilities deserve to be in every conversation about diversity, equity, opportunity and justice,” Farfan said. “They deserve to have an education and jobs, just like anyone else.

Latinx Students with Disabilities

Latinx students with disabilities account for 12 percent of all students being served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Nearly half (42 percent) of Latinx students with disabilities are receiving services for a specific learning disability. In total there are 1,586,009 Latinx students with disabilities enrolled in our nation’s public schools:

  • 736,053 Latinx students with specific learning disabilities.
  • 278,568 Latinx students with speech or language impairments.
  • 128,023 Latinx students with autism.
  • 104,387 Latinx students with intellectual disabilities.
  • 57,891 Latinx students with emotional disturbances.
  • 28,946 Latinx students with developmental delays.
  • 20,403 Latinx students with hearing impairments.
  • 10,469 Latinx students with orthopedic impairments.
  • 6,141 Latinx students with visual impairments.
  • 4,851 Latinx students with traumatic brain injuries.
  • 320 Latinx students with deaf-blindness.

Many Latinx students do not get the disability diagnosis and accommodations they need to succeed in school. Even if they do, their parents and other family members do not know best practices that can help these children fully thrive. Data shows that English-language-learners (ELL) with disabilities who do not receive proper support can get frustrated in class, act up and get suspended. Evidence also shows that suspensions can cause students to fall even further behind in school, which correlates to a higher likelihood of dropping out of school.

Today, only 59 percent Latinx students with a disability graduate high school with a degree compared to 78.2 percent of Latinx students without a disability.

Due to stigmas and other issues, it can be hard for someone with a disability to get a job. For those who do not have a degree, it is even harder. People of color with disabilities face double discrimination. Indeed, only 37 percent of Latinx people with disabilities are employed in the United States compared to 73.9 percent of Latinx people without disabilities. Such unemployment also can lead to poverty, prison and poor health outcomes. Resources in Spanish are needed urgently for this population so they can obtain the information they need to succeed. For example, there are 5,000 Latinx students with disabilities in Long Beach, California, half of them girls. But each year only 400 students with disabilities complete their high school degree and 200 more drop out or earn only a certificate.

Role of Latina Caregivers

The responsibility of caregiving for a disabled family member falls disproportionately on women; 20 percent of all female workers in the United States are family caregivers. The “average” U.S. caregiver spends nearly 20 hours per week, the equivalent of another part-time job, providing unpaid care for nearly five years. Of course, informal (family) caregiving is not paid and puts the entire family in jeopardy of poverty. Latinas are disproportionally involved in the caregiving industry, as well as taking care of their own loved ones as a family role.

Many of these resources also will help caregivers of Latinx children with disabilities, like Vergara Acevedo. A goal of the toolkit is to inspire Spanish-speaking mothers and other caretakers of children with disabilities to become advocates for their children to get the education, skills and jobs they need to succeed.

This guide will direct Spanish-speaking mothers and caretakers to where they can find more information on specific disabilities, diagnoses, early intervention, school accommodations and independence.

The guide also includes profiles of famous Latinas and Hispanic women. “It is important for all girls to have positive role models that look like them,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility. The profiles include Selena Gomez, Frida Kahlo, Gina Rodriguez, Michelle Rodriguez and Cristina Sanz, available at

“This is only the beginning. We will continue to engage in systems change aimed at addressing the root causes for the low employment rate among Latinx people with disabilities as well as to promote authentic leadership, including Latina leaders, and to educate and advocate for sustainable economic growth for the poorest minority in America: people with disabilities,” added Dr. Pineda.

States with the highest number of Latinx with disabilities:

  • 1,279,500 Latinx Californians with disabilities.
  • 1,027,600 Latinx Texans with disabilities.
  • 511,400 Latinx Floridians with disabilities.
  • 417,100 Latinx New Yorkers with disabilities.

To schedule an interview in English or Spanish in person, via Skype or telephone, contact: Stephanie Farfan, RespectAbility’s Policy, Practices and Latinx Outreach Associate, at

The toolkit, Planning for Success: Advocating for Your Child with a Disability, is available at

This project is made possible by the Coca-Cola Foundation, with additional support from the New York Women’s Foundation.

Media Contact: 
Lauren Appelbaum
Phone: 202-517-6272

Source: RespectAbility

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About RespectAbility

RespectAbility is a nonpartisan nonprofit working with entertainment leaders, policy makers, educators, self-advocates, nonprofits, employers, philanthropists and journalists to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities.

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