Author Archives: Tracy Boehm

Telecom Toolbox supports Disability Employment Awareness Month

Telecom Tololbox logoIn celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we are showcasing the Telecom Toolbox, a website and blog dedicated to career development using social media and online methods. Man with infantile cerebral palsy using a computer.The Telecom Toolbox is a product of RTC:Rural research about Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) professional’s use of social media. While the internet has become the primary resource for job seekers and employers, VR agencies are not fully utilizing current job seeking methods.  In fact, research shows that online career development practices are partially limited in VR due to counselor unpreparedness to use social media.

To address this barrier, the Telecom Toolbox includes specific ideas for how consumers and counselors can use online tools and social media platforms in a job search process. These include strategies to: Continue reading

The State of Disability in Rural America

General Disability RatesRural areas dominate the American landscape by as much as 72%-97% of total landmass. While fewer Americans live in rural areas (approximately 15-19%) than urban areas, they make up a larger share of Americans who are unemployed, elderly, live in poverty and who have a disability. Living in rural America can place people with disabilities at a disadvantage. For example, rural residents may encounter serious barriers to accessing services such as healthcare which are typically much sparser and more expensive than in urban areas. Ideally, community services, programs, and policies use up-to-date information to determine what is needed and for whom. However, between 2000-2013 no new information about people with disabilities in rural areas was available. This knowledge gap has negatively impacted our ability to understand or track changes in the needs of people with disabilities living in rural communities.

There is an urgent need to update current knowledge about people with disabilities living in rural America. We used 2010-2014 data from the American Community Survey (ACS) to determine the distribution and demographics of people with disabilities living in rural areas. While data from the ACS puts the national disability rate at 12.4%, disability is more common in the most rural counties (17.7%) compared to the most urban (11.7%). It is true that rates of disability in rural areas may be higher due to an older population, however, rates of disability are higher in rural areas across all ages and impairment types. Clearly, rural matters. Disability is a rural issue and one that should not be ignored. Look for more information about the geography of rural disability as we explore more data from the ACS coming soon!



Healthy People 2020 to highlight RTC:Rural Program

square photos of a target with arrows, a collage of question mariks, a person smiling, raindrops on a window, hands of several people stacked on top of one another, a stack of books, a man swimming laps in pool, fruits and vegetables, a bullhorn, tools in a toolbox.

Living Well with a Disability Logo

Living Well with a Disability, a health promotion program developed by RTC: Rural over 25 years of continued research and development, will be highlighted as a successful, community-based program in an upcoming Healthy People 2020 webinar sponsored by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. The webinar: Progress Review on Improving Health Outcomes through Inclusion and Participation, August 11th, 12:30-2pm, will highlight how public health efforts are improving inclusion, participation, and health-related quality of life and well-being for Americans with and without disabilities.

In her presentation to talk about the Montana Disability and Health Program (MTDH) as “a community-based initiative with a proven track record of improving health outcomes,” MTDH Director at UM’s Rural Institute for Community Inclusion, Meg Ann Traci, Ph.D.,  will be highlighting the long line of research and development of the Living Well with a Disability health promotion program, MTDH’s integrative and collaborative work with DPHHS and other community stakeholders, as well as the continued development of Living Well with a Disability at RTC:Rural with current funding from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research.


Register today and share with others interested in learning more!

The State of the Science on Housing Accessibility and Community Engagement

Thank you to all who attended our State of the Science webinar symposium on housing and community engagement. Craig Ravesloot, Lillie Greiman, and Andrew Myers from the RTC:Rural and Bryce Ward from the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research shared the latest findings from three different datasets. An analysis of the American Housing Survey reveals that many people with mobility impairments live in homes that lack basic access features. photo of bathroom with grab bar in shower and next to toiletFor example, 57% of households in which someone uses mobility equipment (e.g., cane, crutch, wheelchair, scooter) have steps at their entrance and 62% lack grab bars in their bathrooms. Results from the American Time Use Survey indicate that people with mobility impairments are less likely to bathe and less likely to leave home than people without mobility impairment. As such, people with mobility impairments spend more time resting and less time engaged in activities which typically require more exertion. Data from our Health and Home Survey, which was developed with input from a team of Center for Independent Living
(CIL) advisors, suggests that bathing exertion is related to community bathroom2engagement. For example, bathing was rated as one of the most exertion-demanding activities throughout the home, and people who reported more exertion while bathing were less likely to engage in social and recreational activities. Looking to the future, we hope to explore how reducing exertion in the home may increase opportunities and choices for community engagement.

View the video archive of the symposium

View the Slide Presentation

Explore more of the community participation research

Read more about our other State of the Science Colloquia



Save the Date! Housing and Community Engagement Symposium

Man using wheelchair down a ramp connected to his home

Photo credit:

wheelchair user going through accessible 36" doorway

Photo credit: FATE Housing, VA

LOng staircase stoop to Brooklyn brownstone

Photo Credit: Steven Pisano

RTC:Rural is hosting a State of the Science Webinar Symposium on Housing Usability and Community Engagement on June 22, 2016. During this event, researchers will present on the accessibility of America’s housing, noting urban-rural and regional differences. The dialog will transition into two other presentations that push the conversation to address the broader implications of inaccessible housing as related to community engagement and participation. How do the barriers an individual experiences within an inaccessible home then transfer to influence their ability to participate in the community?  What is the cost? JOIN US for an exciting conversation about the state of accessible housing in our communities and what we might do to address the issues presented. Register today!  Questions? Contact for more information.

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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.

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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Data shed new light on rural disability

Data have begun to shed new light on what disability looks like in rural America.  Thanks to work being conducted by RTC:Rural researchers Christiane Von Reichert, Lillie Greiman, and Andrew Myers, new knowledge is developing around the distribution of disability in rural areas.  After a 13 year gap in which data about rural people with disabilities have been unavailable, analysis of newly available American Community Survey data offers insight that can improve our understanding of the diverse and complex nature of rural disability.  Findings suggest impairment rates are higher in non-metropolitan counties, and geographical map analysis reveal patterns of spatial clustering indicating that disability is not randomly distributed. This renewed understanding has major implications for planning and implementing local, state and This map shows the different rates of disability by county across the US. federal policies and programs that address issues of disability in rural America.

Get a more detailed overview of this research by reviewing Disability Patterns in Rural Areas .

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Housing and Participation Symposium at NARRTC

Researchers from the RTC:Rural, Craig Ravesloot, Lillie Greiman, and Andrew Myers, in collaboration with Bryce Ward from the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research, will present a housing

Wheelchair user trying to maneuver within confined kitchen space.

For people with disabilities, access issues can be both within and outside of the home.

symposium at the National Association of Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers conference in Alexandria, VA on May 6, 2016.  The symposium will focus on housing characteristics, experiences and community engagement of people with disabilities. Using data from three different sources, the American Housing Survey, the Health and Home Survey, and the American Time Use Survey, we will explore housing characteristics of homes in rural areas and then examine the association between housing experiences and community engagement. We look forward to sharing our findings and learning how we may improve our research to better serve people with disabilities in rural communities.

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Rural Research Featured at NARRTC Conference

Researchers from the RTC:Rural, Lillie Greiman and Andrew Myers will present a paper at the National Association of Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers conference in Alexandria, VA on May 6, 2016.  They will present recent research findings using data from the American Community survey to highlight rates of disability in rural areas. This geographic analysis reveals vast disparities across the urban-rural continuum as well as spatial variations of disability services within rural America.

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