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

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

Some make sandwiches using bread for lunch, while others enjoy tostadas with ceviche. However, I 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. Therefore, 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. Explore with us how to develop highly individualized transition goals that meet the needs of individuals within their family and social frameworks. These goals should have unique objectives and different tools for every blind and visually impaired person navigating 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.

Transition goals aims to equip our youth with the skills to live independently from their nuclear or extended family, a default transition goal that embodies 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, no one ever asked me 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. Students and families have every right to hold their own views of independence, and we should respect and include these views 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.