University of Montana Rural Institute

Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities – RTC: Rural

MainHallwithSquirrelThe Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities (RTC: Rural) conducts research on disability as part of the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities at the University of Montana. RTC: Rural is funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) to improve the ability of people with disabilities to engage in rural community living.

Research projects at RTC: Rural focus on community participation and independent living, health & wellness, and employment and vocational rehabilitation.  Research products include: Living and Working Well with a Disability, health promotion programs for people with disabilities; Telecom Toolbox, a resource for Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors; and the Transportation Voucher program available from the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL).

As a NIDILRR-funded program, the Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities strives to ensure people with disabilities participate in all stages of the development and implementation of research projects.  Our goal is to make sure research results and products are useful and relevant to people with disabilities, their families and service providers.

Learn more about RTC: Rural, our staff and history by checking out our About Page .  Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.


    Resilience Study poster sparks conversations at 2017 NARRTC conference

    Two people discussing poster at conference

    Dr. Jean Ann Summers presents the Resilience Poster to another researcher at the NARRTC annual meeting, April 2017

    RTC:Rural researchers recently returned from the 2017 National Association of Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers (NARRTC) conference in Alexandria, Virginia, where the latest research findings on three RTC:Rural projects were presented. These included two presentations as well as a poster displaying the preliminary results of The Resilience Study, a collaboration between RTC:Rural and the University of Kansas Research and Training Center on Independent Living.

    See the poster and a full text description below.

    The poster session prompted conversations about how to develop interventions to foster various resilient characteristics, said the study’s lead author Dr. Jean Ann Summers, Director of Research at the Research and Training Center on Independent Living at the University of Kansas.

    The poster, “How People with Disabilities Thrive in Rural Communities” presented results of Phase I of the Resilience Study. In collaboration with staff at Centers for Independent Living (CILs), researchers identified people with physical disabilities who were considered “resilient.” About 40 people attended focus groups and discussed what enabled them to live successfully as persons with disabilities in rural communities.

    Instead of following the more traditional scientific poster format, the researchers decided to present their results using a schematic diagram of a tree.

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    RTC:Rural developing self-employment training module for VR counselors and consumers

    RTC:Rural and our partners have been working for a number of years to promote self-employment among people with disabilities in the vocational rehabilitation system, as it is an option that addresses some of the barriers to employment of living in a rural community.

    Starting in 2015, in partnership with the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation (USOR) and other stakeholders, RTC:Rural researchers developed a self-employment manual, along with policies and procedures to help Utah vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselors become better prepared to guide consumers through the self-employment process.

    RTC:Rural is currently working to adapt the USOR manual into an online module, incorporating direct feedback from stakeholders to make the material more applicable and accessible to a wider audience, including consumers themselves. Dr. Catherine Ipsen, Associate Director for the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities and the Director of Employment Research at RTC:Rural, is leading the project.

    Previous research by RTC:Rural has shown that self-employment is a viable option for many people with disabilities, but is an underutilized option within the VR system. Reasons for this vary, but include VR counselors feeling ill equipped to help consumers determine if business ideas are feasible, and concerns over case costs, business failure, and income potential. The self-employment module aims to alleviate some of those concerns and provide VR counselors with the tools they need to help consumers achieve successful employment outcomes.

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What does RTC: Rural do?

RTC: Rural is a leader in research on disability in rural communities. Visit our About page to learn more.