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.


    Social Media Tips Added to Career Development Tool

    Telecom Toolbox logo with multi-colored icon bubbles emerging from a toolbox.We recently expanded the Telecom Toolbox to include social media strategies for job seeking. The revamped Toolbox includes sections on online communication, online career development, and ethics.

    The Communication section provides tips for using email, text messaging, and video to improve consumer / VR counselor communication.  Research shows frequent contact with consumers improves VR outcomes (Ipsen & Goe, 2016) and online methods provide additional avenues for this communication to take place.

    Building an online presence can be overwhelming, but having positive search results is increasingly important when searching for a job. The Online Career Development section covers a variety strategies for using different social media platforms during the job search process. For instance, LinkedIn can be used to showcase professional accomplishments, network with colleagues, blog content related to your field and even apply for a job.  The first step to use LinkedIn effectively is creating an appealing profile. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can help create an online identity as well.  For example, if you were a landscaper, you could use Instagram to share before and after pictures of a yard you landscaped which illustrates “proof of performance”.  Twitter can be used to network and ask questions of industry leaders, while Facebook can be used to cast a wide net for leads when searching for a job.  The section also includes strategies for managing “digital dirt”, effectively utilizing job boards, researching employers, keyword optimization and researching employers are explored as well.

    As social media becomes pervasive, so does examples of missteps.  There are many things to consider when consumers, counselors and VR agencies use social media and the Ethics section of the Telecom Toolbox helps navigate this brave new world.

    We are excited about the changes in the Telecom Toolbox and look forward to updating the website as social media use continues to grow and evolve.

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    Homes Not Suiting Needs of People with Disabilities

    The places we call home matter. Our homes are often the nexus of our lives; they are the places we leave from and return to. In this context homes should be places of safety, privacy, and security. However, for people with disabilities this may not be the case. Often, the physical design of housing does not fit the needs of individuals with disabilities, but little is known about the extent of this problem.

    We are learning more, however.  Lillie Greiman, Andrew Myers, and Craig Ravesloot, from RTC:Rural, present what we do know from their research, exploring the accessibility of America’s housing.  Results from an analysis of the American Housing Survey reveals 44% of owner and 54% of renter households have steps at their entrance, and only 38% of owner and 45% of renter households have grab bars in the bathroom. Housing for people with disabilities is missing key accessibility features.

    Housing accessibility is really just one factor of home suitability. Greiman and colleagues also explored the “home experiences” individuals have within their residences, as related to entering and existing the building, meal preparation, bathing, cleaning, and using living, storage, and icon of two cartoon homes placed side-be-sidesleeping spaces. They measured ease, satisfaction, safety and the level of exertion a person endures when engaging in these various activities throughout the home. What they found is people with mobility impairments report lower rates of ease, satisfaction and safety, and higher rates of exertion with home experiences relative to those without mobility impairments.

    In the area of participation research, these findings lead us to ask additional questions about how home experiences may impact other areas of daily community life. For example, when we have to exert more energy simply to navigate within our homes, how does that limit our ability to participate outside of our homes, such as with employment and social activities?

    Homes may be the assumed place where independent living begins, but unsuitable home environments may lead us to say something different.

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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.