Bread, Rice, or Tostada – Cultural Inclusion at The Transition Table- Part 1: Why It Matters

Bread, Rice, or Tostada: Cultural Inclusion at The Transition Table

Some make sandwiches using bread for lunch, while others enjoy tostadas with ceviche. I, however, usually enjoy a rice dish with meat and vegetables. Lunch choices are very personal! They’re often the result of how someone was raised, their cultural values and background, and any dietary circumstances and needs. We all know there is not one “right” diet for everyone, and we realize that judging an individual’s lunch choice will generally not be appreciated.

Similar to food choices, many factors impact how blind or low-vision youth and their families view transition. We invite you to explore how transition goals are highly individualized, need to be developed to meet the needs of individuals within their family and social frameworks, and should have unique objectives and different tools for every blind and visually impaired person as they navigate the transition from high school to adult life.

Why This Matters

One of the core conversations in school and transition planning revolves around independence and the importance of mastering independent living skills. The blind, low vision, and broader disability community has traditionally emphasized mastering independent living skills. Students are told they need to learn how to safely cook, efficiently travel, and manage and clean their homes to be successful.

The default transition goal of living independently from nuclear or extended family is intended to equip our youth to achieve the ultimate “American dream” of moving away from home and gaining additional freedoms. But this transition outcome, based on the Western value of individualism, may be different than the expectations of the student and their family (Cage, 2019; Zhang, 2005; Zhang & Rosen 2018).

Cultural Values

Cultural values of students and families must be considered in order to facilitate successful transition outcomes.

According to data from the 2014-2018 American Community Survey, an estimated 22.0% to 44.5% of the population speak a language other than English in the home. As the United States continues to increase in diversity, it is important for educators, families, and students to realize that each of us has a unique perspective.

Independence According to Cultural Values

So, what does independence mean?

It turns out there isn’t one way to define it.

To many in the Latinx community, it means establishing one’s individuality while remaining interconnected to the family unit. To many in Asian communities, it means being able to contribute to one’s family. These communities tend to value collectivism and community; self-reliance is achieved in order to promote family advancement (Conroy, 2006; Zhang & Rosen 2018).

While in school, I was never asked how I envisioned my “independence” after high school. In an effort to develop appropriate transition goals, students and their families should ask themselves, “What does independence mean to me?”

A Look Ahead

We want to provide an important glimpse into the journeys of three blind or low-vision individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences.

Our stories illustrate how we redefined what transition planning meant to each of us. It is absolutely valid for students and families to have their own views of independence, and such views should be respected and included at the transition table.


Cage, C. (2019). Culturally Responsive Transition Planning, Topical Paper. VCU Center on Transition Innovations. Retrieved February 1, 2021, from

Conroy, P. W. (2006). Hmong Culture and Visual Impairment: Strategies for Culturally Sensitive Practices. Re:View, 38(2), 55–64.

U.S. Census Bureau. (2019). U.S. Census Bureau Releases 2014-2018 ACS 5-Year Estimates. Retrieved February 5, 2021, from

Zhang, D. (2005). Parent Practices in Facilitating Self-Determination Skills: The Influences of Culture, Socioeconomic Status, and Children’s Special Education Status. Research & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 30(3), 154-162.

Zhang, Y., & Rosen, S. (2018). Confucian philosophy and contemporary Chinese societal attitudes toward people with disabilities and inclusive education. Educational Philosophy & Theory, 50(12), 1113–1123.

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