November 2, 2017

Stakeholder Engagement Brings Value and Insight to Researchers at APRIL 2017

two people pointing at a poster and a map

RTC:Rural researcher Lillie Greiman showing our Network Analysis poster

RTC:Rural staff recently traveled to Spokane, Washington, for the 23rd annual Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) conference.

“Attending APRIL gives us a chance to connect with the real people, both service providers and consumers, who work on the ground every day,” said RTC:Rural Research Associate Lillie Greiman. Those connections allow RTC:Rural staff to share, gather feedback and solicit input on our research and resources.  Added Research Associate Andrew Myers, “The APRIL conference gives us the opportunity to hear about the lived experiences of people with disabilities in rural communities all across the county, and these stories can help inform our research and improve the work we do.”

Tools for Today and Tomorrow – Presentation

workshop participants listening to a panel of speakers

RTC:Rural research Tannis Hargrove presenting about the Healthy Community Living program

Researchers shared information about new and current RTC:Rural projects and products in a packed workshop called Asking Question Leads to Solutions: Tools for Today and Tomorrow, which highlighted some of the many RTC:Rural products and tools that have been developed as a result of our research. Presenters provided information about:

All of these resources can be found on the Rural Disability Resource Library website.

APRIL is also a place were we connect with potential research and project partners who share their knowledge and expertise about rural community living with RTC:Rural staff. Rayna Sage recruited participants for her interviews of young adults with disabilities who live in rural areas. (For more information, view her recruitment flier here: Social and Community Participation Seeking Volunteers for a Research Study).  The employment team recruited potential guest bloggers to share their experiences about using social media and online tools in the job search process for the Telecom Toolbox blog. (For more information about becoming a Telecom Toolbox guest blogger, please contact Lauren Smith).

My Rural Community Poster Activity

woman reaching for a magnet

The My Rural Community poster activity in action at the APRIL 2017 annual conference

What is rural community living like? What resources are available to people in their rural communities? Communications Associate Kerry Morse facilitated an interactive poster activity designed to engage conference-goers in conversation about where they live. “The poster was a great way to engage people in talking about things they do in town versus out of town,” Morse said. “It also highlights how rural communities across the country are different.” The poster allowed participants to arrange icons on a magnetic board to represent the activities and locations that were important to them in their local communities, and to show what they go out of town for, and what resources and activities may not be available to them in their rural towns.

For more pictures of the poster activity, check out the RTC:Rural Facebook post about the event by clicking here: RTC:Rural Community Poster Activity. You can also search the hashtag #MyRuralCommunity.

In addition to engaging conversations at our vendor table, RTC:Rural researchers gave an additional  presentation as a follow up to CIL requests for more technical assistance on using social media.

Social Media: Reaching Farther, Working Better Presentation

two speakers at a workshop, one using a wheelchair

RTC:Rural staff Dr. Rayna Sage and Justice Ender presenting at APRIL 2017

Social Media: Reaching Farther, Working Better was co-presented by Dr. Rayna Sage, Research Associate, and Justice Ender, Communications Associate. Dr. Sage appreciated that their presentation on social media usage tips and tricks for CILs was well-attended by both youth and adult conference attendees, and that the topic of social media gives younger participants a way to contribute and share their expertise with others. “I really enjoyed a conversation I overhead after the talk between a youth and two independent living [IL] specialists where the youth was taking a leadership role in explaining the very basics of social media to help the IL specialists better understand our presentation and the potential for their CIL [Center for Independent Living] in using social media,” she said.

The slides from both of these presentations will be posted soon on the APRIL conference website. Asking Questions is in Workshop Block 4, and Social Media: Reaching Farther, Working Better is in Workshop Block 5.

We at RTC:Rural are very thankful for our continued relationship with APRIL and our other CIL, research, and stakeholder partners. “The relationships with our APRIL partners is invaluable and essential to the work we do,” said Director of Knowledge Translation Tracy Boehm Barrett. “The insight and real life perspectives our partners share with us help identify the need for and shape our research and development projects so we know we are addressing real issues experienced by people with disabilities living in rural America that are need-based and not just curiosity-based. At the end of the day, we all want to see positive outcomes and impact come from our work. Without stakeholder engagement from the very beginning stages of research, we could miss the boat on asking the right questions and applying relevant and meaningful solutions.”

We look forward to working together on research to develop successful tools and products that allow people with disabilities in rural areas to achieve their independent living goals, and can’t wait for APRIL 2018 in Denver, CO!