Category Archives: News

University of Montana and University of Kansas disability researchers contribute to special journal issue

This blog post is adapted from an article written by Allison Crist, University of Kansas

people talking at a farmer's market, including a person using a wheelchairAll people deserve the chance to thrive in a community — but for people with disabilities, there are often obstacles to participating.

A new special issue of the Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community explores various aspects of this topic. Dr. Craig Ravesloot at the University of Montana Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities (RTC:Rural) and two researchers at the University of Kansas Research and Training Center on Independent Living (RTC/IL) contributed to the thematic issue, “People with Disabilities and Community Participation.”

According to Glen White, one of the issue’s two guest editors and RTC/IL director, many people with disabilities remain isolated in their communities, despite advances in independent living (which focuses on supports that enable people to live in the community) and deinstitutionalization (which moves people from nursing homes to living in the community).

White said the five studies included in this issue focus on improving the lives of people with existing disabilities and those who are aging into disability. “As researchers in the disability field continue to investigate interventions that reduce barriers and create more opportunities to fully participate, they will positively affect many of the more than 57 million Americans with disabilities,” White said.

Jean Ann Summers, the other guest editor and RTC/IL research director, said the special issue examines community participation from multiple angles.

“We present research that focuses on the characteristics of individuals, like secondary health conditions, that create problems with how people live in a community,” Summers said. “Other articles examine external factors that affect how people with disabilities are able to participate in their communities.”

For example, one study about accessible parking illustrates the way environmental changes can improve the ability of people with disabilities to get out and about. “A community needs to be welcoming and accessible,” Summers said. “This, combined with supportive programs, helps empower people. You need both.” Continue reading

RTC:Rural Research Associate awarded prestigious research and policy fellowship

Headshot of Jennifer Wong

Dr. Jennifer Wong, RTC:Rural Research Associate

Dr. Jennifer Wong, RTC:Rural Research Associate, has been awarded a Training Fellowship in Rehabilitation Policy Research with the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Healthy Aging & Physical Disability at the University of Washington (UW). The two-year fellowship consists of a year of rehabilitation research at UW, followed by a year of policy research in Washington, D.C.  Wong will join one other postdoctoral researcher to make up the fellowship’s second cohort. The fellowship will begin in October 2017.

Wong completed her dissertation in Experimental Psychology at the University of Montana in December 2016. Her dissertation research contributes to RTC:Rural’s Ecology of Rural Disability project. She has worked with RTC:Rural on various research projects since 2014, and has contributed to RTC:Rural’s Pain Interference Patterns, Person-Environment Fit, Resilience in Community Participation, Decision Support, and Participation in Events research projects.  Wong has also contributed to the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities’ (RIIC) Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) project on rural discharge planning.

Wong was drawn to the fellowship program at UW because of its interdisciplinary nature and its focus on aging, disability, and policy. “This is the only program that does one year of research followed by one year of policy,” she said. “They look at policy research questions, which is something that’s really close to my heart. How do we advocate, how do we move research into policy, and what does that look like?”

During the first year of the fellowship, Wong will be in Seattle, Washington and will work with Dr. Ivan Molton, her future mentor at UW, to outline an individualized research plan for the year. Wong will connect with Dr. Molton over the summer to begin learning about the research currently being carried out by the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at UW and together they will decide what she will focus on during her year at UW. UW is currently conducting a 10-year longitudinal study, said Wong, investigating people living and aging with a long-term physical disability and their related secondary conditions, access to health care, and rehabilitation care. Because of her time at RTC:Rural, Wong would like to continue to work with large datasets. “I’d like to understand how they can be used in a way that advocates for others,” she said. Continue reading

Telecom Toolbox: A Resource for Job Seekers and Service Providers

Telecom ToolboxTelecom Toolbox logo is an online resource for Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) professionals and clients to support their use of online tools to reach employment goals.

RTC:Rural’s ongoing research on how to improve VR services revealed three areas in which VR agencies could make changes to positively impact client employment outcomes: use of telecommunication strategies, online career development, and understanding of ethical issues in social media and telecommunications use.

Communication

Using telecommunication strategies, such as email, text messaging, video chat, or instant messaging, can help overcome many of the barriers that people with disabilities contend with when it comes to finding employment. These forms of communication can be especially important in rural areas, where opportunities and resources tend to be fewer and far-between. For VR counselors, telecommunication can offer ways to provide services in a timely and cost-efficient manner, and increased communication between counselors and clients has positive impact on employment outcomes.

Online Career Development

In this increasingly digital world, tapping into the plethora of online resources can be a game-changer when it comes to finding employment. However, many VR agencies are not fully utilizing current online job-seeking methods. This happens for a variety of reasons, including a lack of counselor training and a lack of ethical guidance in social media use specific to the VR process.

Ethics

Though telecommunication and social media strategies provide opportunities for VR agencies and clients, they present some unique ethical concerns due to their continually evolving nature. These concerns can leave VR counselors and agencies intimidated or unsure about how to integrate social media into their practice. Adding to this confusion is limited guidance on telecommunication and social media use by professional organizations.

Based on these identified needs for training and guidance, RTC:Rural developed Telecom Toolbox as a resource for both VR counselors and individuals working on their own to find employment. The website is a resource to understand the pros and cons of different social media platforms and how they support job search efforts. It also provides guidance on how to create and manage a professional online profile. Continue reading

Hold the Date: State of the Science Seminar on Effective Rural Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Job Development, June 22, 2017

State of the Science, June 22, 2017Join us on June 22, 2017 at 10:00 am MDT for RTC:Rural’s State of the Science (SOS) webinar exploring how Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) payment models influence the availability of job development services in rural areas. The webinar will help participants understand which models may facilitate better VR outcomes.

While VR agencies use a variety of models to deliver job development services, the majority contract with third-party providers to deliver services such as resume development, job coaching, and job placement. There is evidence, however, that different payment models (such as hourly, fee-for-service, or performance-based benchmarks) influence the availability and quality of job development services in rural communities.

The free “Rural VR Job Development” webinar will explore the relationship between VR payment models, geography, and VR outcomes. The webinar will feature a review of current research from the Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities (RTC:Rural), followed by reactions and perspectives from a panel of experts, including VR directors, field service staff, and researchers. The webinar is designed to provide current and pertinent information that will stimulate a rich discussion among participants.

Check back in the coming weeks for additional information about the Rural VR Job Development webinar. Additional information will also be sent via our eNewsletter.

To sign up for direct notification about our employment and VR research and activities, contact Kerry Morse.

UM undergrad presents Facebook data for RTC:Rural participatory health promotion project

Student pointing to her research poster, in the poster hall at a conference.

Megan Miller presents her poster, which features her work on RTC:Rural’s Healthy Community Living project, on April 28, 2017 as part of the University of Montana Conference on Undergraduate Research.

On Friday, April 28, 2017, undergraduate student researcher Megan Miller presented a poster titled “Analysis of Factors Contributing to a Facebook Presence” at the 16th annual University of Montana Conference on Undergraduate Research.  Miller is a junior psychology major at the University of Montana, and completed the project with RTC:Rural for independent research credit during the 2016/2017 school year.

Miller’s research is part of a broader project at RTC:Rural called Healthy Community Living (HCL).  She worked closely with the HCL project leaders to develop and carry out her research over the course of the school year. HCL is part of a five year grant to produce an innovative online multi-media health promotion program. Using a participatory curriculum development process, RTC:Rural researchers are working closely with partners at Centers for Independent Living and advisors around the country, as well as individuals with disabilities, to develop and test curriculum material.

A beginning step for Miller was figuring out how to attract followers to the HCL Facebook page, which is being used to engage and involve people with disabilities, community members, and service providers in the creation and refinement of HCL’s health promotion curriculum. Specifically, the HCL Facebook page is a tool to collect input on specific curriculum content, as well as to curate a collection of photographic and video media for inclusion in the online program. Continue reading

RTC:Rural presents geography research on disability and employment rates at AAG meeting

Conference presentation showing speakers and slide behind with map of the USA

RTC:Rural Researcher Andrew Myers presenting at the American Association of Geographers 2017 annual meeting in Boston, MA. Photo Credit: Sandy Wong.

RTC:Rural’s presentation at the 2017 American Association of Geographers annual meeting generated enthusiastic conversation about the values and challenges of using big data to address rural issues.  Andrew Myers, Research Associate at RTC: Rural, recently returned from this conference, held in Boston, MA. There, he presented RTC:Rural research on current disability patterns in rural America with a focus on employment rates. His presentation, titled “Current Disability Patterns in Rural America,” was part of the Geographies of Disability 1: Mapping and Accessibility session. Coauthors include RTC:Rural Research Associate Lillie Greiman and University of Montana graduate student Kourtney Johnson.

The AAG’s Disability Specialty Group brought international researchers together to share the latest geographical research about disability. Myers is a board member of the AAG Disability Specialty Group, and helped organize the “Geographies of Disability” track at the conference.

Using data from the American Community Survey, Myers, Greiman, and Johnson found that the national disability rate in the United States is 12.5%. When they looked at the county level, they found that disability rates were higher in rural counties, at 17.7%, than in urban ones, with rates of only 11.8%.

Overall, employment rates for people with disabilities are lower in rural areas, which follows the national trend of lower employment rates in rural areas. However, said Myers, “It would be misleading to say that rates of employment [for people with disabilities] always go down as you get more rural. In fact, in some rural communities employment rates of people with disabilities are higher than the national average of 33%.”

Myers, Greiman, and Johnson have a number of hypotheses they are investigating, and are currently writing up their findings for publication. Continue reading

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. A printable file of the poster is available upon request. For a copy of the file contact Kerry Morse.

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. Continue reading

RTC:Rural presents research at NARRTC 2017 “Taking Charge of Change”

RTC:Rural staff member presenting at a conference

RTC:Rural researcher presenting at a conference

In April 2017, RTC:Rural researchers presented three current research projects at the 2017 NARRTC conference, held this year in Alexandria, Virginia.

This conference provides an annual opportunity for grantees of the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) to come together and share their latest research findings.  Training and knowledge translation methodologies and results are also shared. The 2017 theme is “Taking Charge of Change.”

Projects presented aim to enhance interventions, programs or systems to improve the lives of people with disabilities. These research projects fall into the priority categories of Community Participation & Independent Living, Employment & Vocational Rehabilitation, Health & Wellness, and Knowledge Translation.

RTC:Rural was on the agenda with two presentations and one poster:

1. Using Participatory Curriculum Development as an Integrated Knowledge Translation Strategy (Presentation)

Authors: Dr. Craig Ravesloot, Ph.D., Tracy Boehm Barrett, M.P.H., Tannis Hargrove, M.S., Mary Olson, MSW

Self-management and health promotion remain a significant challenge for people with disabilities living in rural areas. Online learning is a promising avenue to make evidence-based programs available to people, yet the best approaches to implementing online content for rural people with disabilities are unknown.

To establish these best approaches, RTC:Rural is partnering with stakeholders from the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) and eight Centers for Independent Living across the country to develop two health promotion programs that blend online and face-to-face learning. These programs are based on the Living Well with a Disability program. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

RTC:Rural contributing to disability sessions at the American Association of Geographers annual meeting this week

This week, RTC:Rural researcher Andrew Myers will coordinate and participate in the discussion of American disability demographics, at the annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers (AAG). This three-session track contributes to the conference’s featured theme “Mainstreaming Human Rights in Geography and the AAG.”

RTC:Rural researcher presenting at a conference

The AAG conference is the primary annual gathering of geographers, GIS specialists, environmental scientists, and other leaders from around the country. To be held April 5-9, 2017 in Boston, MA, the conference will feature over 6,900 presentations, posters, workshops, and field trips by leading scholars, experts, and researchers. It includes the latest in research and applications in geography, sustainability, and GIScience.

RTC:Rural researcher Andrew Myers is a board member of the AAG’s Disability Specialty Group, and is an organizer of the three-part “Geographies of Disability” track at the conference. The components of this track are:

As part of the Mapping and Accessibility paper session, Myers will present “Current Disability Patterns in Rural America.” This presentation includes the recent findings of RTC:Rural’s Geography of Disability project, which analyzed American Community Survey data for the demographics of people with disability living in rural areas and the services available to them. Results reveal that rates of disability are higher in rural areas across many demographic categories such as age, race, veteran status, and impairment type. Employment rates vary in correspondence with the urban-rural continuum as well. Geographical nuances are an important factor in explaining these findings. Co-authors of these findings include RTC:Rural researcher Lillie Greiman and University of Montana graduate student Kourtney Johnson. Continue reading