The 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.
RTC:Rural’s research on accessible community events has a new focus. Dr. Rayna Sage, RTC:Rural Research Associate, is leading our Participation in Rural Events among Young Adults with Disabilities research project. The study aims to understand how young adults with disabilities in rural communities participate in community events, and how their community participation can enrich their lives and contribute to their communities in meaningful ways.
The accessibility of rural community events is directly tied to participation, and community participation can be tied to the accumulation of social capital. “Social capital is a tradeable resource that exists in a relationship. If you have social capital you can use it to gain other kinds of capital,” said Sage. “It provides opportunities to interact with other people who may have access to resources that you don’t have access to.”
These other kinds of capital could include things like favors, experiences, or a job. Another way to think of it could be as “cashing in” on a friendship or social connection in order to secure some sort of benefit, such as a job at a family friend’s store, or access to a behind-the-scenes space at a public event for someone who needs a place to sit in the shade and rest.
Having social capital could be especially important in rural communities, and could help overcome some of the limitations faced by young adults with disabilities as they transition into adulthood. “It’s a vulnerable period for most people, the transition after high school into whatever they’re going into, but for young adults with disabilities it’s even more critical for them to engage in meaningful activities that are going to enhance their lives,” said Sage.
Sage’s previous work has pointed to how the inequality gap between poor/working class and middle/upper class young adults grows during the period of transition into adulthood, even if they go to college. Now, in this new study, she hopes to see if the social capital in rural communities can help young adults with disabilities compensate for some of the other inequalities and challenges they may be facing.Continue reading about Figuring out how young adults with disabilities participate in rural community events
RTC:Rural is excited to announce the launch of “Disability in America,” a new series of maps produced from our research. Every Monday, a new map will be revealed - you may follow and share this series on social media with the #MapMonday hashtag via the RTC:Rural Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Some of the maps can be previewed on the RTC:Rural website here: Disability in American Map Series.
“Place matters. To understand rural America, you have to see rural America. These maps help build a sense of place for those who can’t road trip across America to see the diversity of rural communities themselves,” said Dr. Craig Ravesloot, RTC:Rural Director.
The “Disability in America” maps are based on demographic data collected through the American Community Survey and cover disability rates, rates of particular types of disabilities, and other status of people with disabilities such as poverty and employment. They were created as part of our Geography and Rural Disability project and have implications for organizations and agencies working on disability topics nationwide.
“These maps show that disability in the Southeast is different from Northeast, which is different the Midwest and the West. The researchers at RTC:Rural work every day to understand the variety of rural places so that our solutions are effective across rural America,” said Andrew Myers, Research Associate.Continue reading about Start your week off right with #MapMonday, our new "Disability in America" map series