Category Archives: News

Figuring out how young adults with disabilities participate in rural community events

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.

Rayna Sage at a rodeo with mountains in the background

RTC:Rural Research Associate Rayna Sage, Ph.D., at the Pioneer Days Rodeo in Ronan, MT where she was conducting in-the-moment interviews for this project

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

Start your week off right with #MapMonday, our new “Disability in America” map series

Portion of a map showing disability rates in every county in the United StatesRTC: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

August 24 Webinar: Learn More About Our Living Well with a Disability Program

:ogo for Living Well with a Disability

Mark your calendars for the August 24th webinar about our successful Living Well with a Disability program! The webinar will be presented by RTC:Rural staff and feature guest speaker Bert Rios of S.M.I.L.E. in Yuma, AZ.

Living Well Intro Webinar

This Living Well Intro webinar is designed to provide an introduction to the Living Well with a Disability (LWD) program. It will be held on August 24, 2017, from 10:00- 11:30 a.m. Mountain Time.

Living Well Intro will introduce LWD program content and the Living Well Facilitator Training website. It will also explain the process for an organization to become a licensed program provider and for staff to become consumer workshop facilitators, and conclude with implementation success stories. Several guest speakers who have experience implementing the program at their CILs will be presenting, including Bert Rios from S.M.I.L.E. in Yuma, Arizona who will speak about implementing Living Well with youth. Other guest speakers will be posted here as they are confirmed.

Registration

To register, please follow the link below: Living Well Intro Webinar Registration | August 24, 2017, 10:00- 11:30 a.m. Mountain Time

This webinar will be closed-captioned, and a recording will be made available. For accessibility requests, please email livingwell@ruralinstitute.umt.edu. Continue reading

Consumer interviews add to Participatory Curriculum Development project

Man sitting in a wheelchair in front of several bikes hanging on the wall, talking and gesturing

Photo of an interview with Joe Stone collected for the Healthy Community Living project – an example of some of the multi-media we are collecting as part of our participatory process to make this curriculum more engaging and useful. You can view the video of the interview below.

Healthy Community Living, one of RTC:Rural’s current projects, is developing a multi-media health promotion program to improve the health and wellbeing of people with disabilities. Have you ever wondered how we work with partners and consumers on a project like this? We call the process “Participatory Curriculum Development” and this blog post gives you an insider view of what that means!

Our project is currently working with eight Centers for Independent Living (CILs) using a Participatory Curriculum Development (PCD) procedure to create and adapt two curricula. The two project development teams consist of experienced CIL staff, peer experts in independent living philosophy, and staff members from the Associated Programs of Rural Independent Living (APRIL) and RTC:Rural.

While multi-media is a good way to represent and enhance the concepts and ideas in the content, it must also be interesting and engaging for the program user.  However, there are not many photos, videos and other media that accurately represent people with disabilities in real life settings. To overcome and change this, the development teams are using the PCD process to access existing media, create new media themselves, and engage CIL consumers in the process. This means that the content created for Healthy Community Living truly represents Real People in Real Places.

Although finding or creating media may sound simple in the age of the internet and digital technology, the process for creating multi-media content is a bit more challenging than one might think. The first step is to outline content for each curriculum. This includes identifying areas within the curriculum where multi-media presentations can enhance the content and make it more interesting and engaging.

Continue reading

Living Well with a Disability Program featured in national webinar on Building Inclusive Programs

On July 18, 2017, staff from RTC:Rural presented at the webinar “Building Inclusive Programs to Serve Adults with Disabilities,” hosted by the National Council on Aging Center for Healthy Aging. The webinar was well attended, with 320 participants from around the country. The webinar was recorded; click here to view the video or download presentation slides.

RTC:Rural Knowledge Translation Director Tracy Boehm Barrett and Montana Disability and Health Program Director Meg Ann Traci provided an overview of our successful Living Well with a Disability (LWD) program including its research and development history, and how it has been expanded and sustained over the years, which has been largely influenced by consumer and service provider input.

A group of seven people, three sitting in wheelchairs, at a workshop outside around a tableLWD is an evidence-based, peer-led health promotion and self-management program for adults with disabilities, recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  It focuses on developing a healthy and balanced lifestyle as a vehicle to reach individual quality-of-life goals.

To date, our program has trained 1,218 Living Well with a Disability workshop facilitators, representing nearly 300 community agencies in 46 states.  Nearly 10,000 individuals with disabilities have been served through the Living Well with a Disability program.

In addition to the presentation on the development, implementation, and successes of LWD, the webinar featured a third presenter, Karl Cooper, Esq. of the American Association on Health and Disability. Mr. Cooper provided an overview of the health and disability landscape in the United States. Helpful resources and strategies for ensuring evidence-based programs are accessible for all were also featured.

“We were very pleased to be invited to participate in this webinar and share its historical research and development,” says Tracy Boehm Barrett. “Living Well has been a launch pad program to engage people with disabilities in self-management of their health in a way that recognizes the unique barriers and secondary health conditions that people with disabilities experience.  In the spirit of building inclusive communities, providing the tools and resources for managing one’s health and well-being is essential to ensuring community participation by all. We want to thank the Center for Health Aging for inviting us to present!” Continue reading

Learn more about our Living Well with a Disability Program in upcoming webinars

:ogo for Living Well with a DisabilityMark your calendars for upcoming webinars about our successful Living Well with a Disability program! On August 3rd and 24th, RTC:Rural will host two free Living Well with a Disability (LWD) technical assistance webinars.


The first webinar, Living Well Technical Assistance, is for past and current organizations that are LWD program providers and individuals who are current facilitators of the program. It will be held on August 3, 2017, from 10:00- 11:30 a.m. Mountain Time.

Living Well Technical Assistance will highlight the new Living Well Facilitator Training website and discuss changes regarding program licensing, implementation, and ongoing technical assistance. This webinar is a great opportunity for organizations who have previously held LWD workshops to get their programs up-and-running and ready to train new facilitators. Learn about the new features of the Facilitator Training website, a self-study online training that includes videos, downloadable resources, and more.

To register, please follow the link below:

Living Well Technical Assistance Webinar Registration | August 3, 2017, 10:00- 11:30 a.m. Mountain Time
For past and current Living Well program providers and facilitators


The second webinar, Living Well Intro, is for organizations and individuals who have not previously participated in the LWD program. It will be held on August 24, 2017, from 10:00- 11:30 a.m. Mountain Time. Living Well Intro will introduce LWD program content and the Living Well Facilitator Training website. It will also explain the process for an organization to become a licensed program provider and for staff to become consumer workshop facilitators. Continue reading

Finding and Using Data for Advocacy guide now available

Cover of Finding and Using Data for Advocacy How-To GuideWe are pleased to share our newly revised Finding and Using Data for Advocacy How-To Guide. Part of RTC:Rural’s new Advocacy Skill Building Toolkit, Finding and Using Data for Advocacy is a resource that can be used to supplement an advocacy skill building workshop, or as a stand-alone resource for anyone who would like to use data to support their advocacy goals.

Finding and Using Data for Advocacy explains what data is and how it is used to support advocacy, and provides links to public data sets related to disability, including RTC:Rural’s Disability Counts Data Finder, the Community & Work Disparities (ADA-PARC) website, and Disability Statistics, among others. The guide also includes prompts to guide users in determining what type of data would be most helpful for their advocacy and how to incorporate that data into their personal testimony.

Other How-To Guides featured in the Toolkit include Writing Effective Letters to Decision Makers and Creating Your Personal Testimony to Influence Policy Change, both of which are available for download on the Advocacy Skill Building Toolkit website.

The How-To Guides were developed and updated from previous products developed by the Research and Training Center on Independent Living at the University of Kansas, and are influenced by RTC:Rural’s successful Living Well with a Disability program.

New Research Explores Disability at the Household Level

A family of a man using a wheelchair, a woman, and a young man pose together outside.

Picture from Healthy Community Living (www.healthycommunityliving.com).

A new RTC:Rural Research Brief by RTC:Rural partner Christiane von Reichert, Ph.D., Professor of Geography at the University of Montana, presents research on disability rates at the household level. The brief, titled “Prevalence of Disability: Individual and Household Context,” is available for download on the Geography and Rural Disability page on the RTC:Rural website. This work highlights the number of people without disabilities who live in households with someone with a disability, and contributes to a larger study on migration and disability and rural/urban differences in disability levels.

In this study, von Reichert analyzed American Community Survey data to determine the number of households in the United States that have at least one member with a disability. She found that about 308 million Americans, or 97% of the total population, live in households. About 41 million, or 13%, of Americans have at least one type of disability, and 38 million of them live in households. The others live in group quarters, which include dormitories, nursing homes, and prisons.

Of those who live in households, 230 million are people who do not have a disability, and live in a household with no members with disabilities. Approximately 78 million people without disabilities live in households with a member who experiences a disability. This means that nearly 25% of the US population lives in a household with a member with a disability.

This analysis highlights the fact that the impact of disability goes beyond the individual level and extends to the household-level, said von Reichert, an insight that needs to be taken into consideration for future disability research and policy-making.

Our State of the Science seminar on rural VR well attended and informative

Over 120 individuals registered for our 2017 State of the Science event, “Effective Rural Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Job Development.” The live, participatory webinar was held June 22, 2017 and was attended by State Vocational Rehabilitation staff and administrators, researchers and job development providers from around the country. For those who missed or were unable to register for the live session, an archived recording of the webinar is now available.

The agenda featured a presentation on RTC:Rural employment research by Dr. Catherine Ipsen, RTC:Rural Director of Rural Employment Research followed by a panel discussion. Panelists included: Betsy Hopkins, Director of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation at the Maine Department of Labor; Mimi Schafer, Rehabilitation Area Manager for Minnesota Vocational Rehabilitation Services; Jessica Adams, Program Manager for Community Connections, Inc.; Joe Xavier, Director of the California Department of Rehabilitation; and Dr. Susan Foley, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Panelist bios can be viewed here: State of the Science webinar features a panel of experts from the VR field.

Dr. Catherine Ipsen headshot

Dr. Catherine Ipsen, Rural Institute Associate Director and RTC:Rural Employment Project Director

To begin the webinar, Dr. Ipsen shared RTC:Rural demographic research by Research Associates Lillie Greiman and Andrew Myers regarding rural disparities. Using American Community Survey data, Greiman and Myers examined differences in rates of poverty, employment, and those out of the labor force for people with and without disabilities in rural and urban areas.

Dr. Ipsen then presented work on two RTC:Rural employment research projects: Premature Exit from VR Services and Rural Contracted Services. “Access to timely job development services is vital to keeping people engaged in the VR program,” said Dr. Ipsen. “Many providers, however, are reluctant to serve rural areas due to barriers imposed by distance, economic opportunity, and VR payment and referral models.” Continue reading

Using Improv to Teach Advocacy: RTC:Rural Advocacy Skill Building Toolkit now available

Advocacy Toolkit Facilitator Guide coverRTC:Rural is excited to release the Advocacy Skill Building Toolkit, a new set of resources for Centers for Independent Living (CILs) and others to facilitate workshops to develop the advocacy skills of emerging Independent Living leaders and youth with disabilities.

The Toolkit is a collaboration between BASE, an affiliate of Summit Independent Living in Missoula, MT, the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL), and RTC:Rural staff, and was developed in response to the needs and interests of CILs and other stakeholders.

The Toolkit is available free of charge on the RTC:Rural website.

“We are so excited that we can help get this toolkit in the hands of CILs and others,” said Mary Olson, Director of Training and Technical Assistance for APRIL. “The Independent Living network has been craving tools that can be used with young adults with disabilities. Every time I talk with a CIL, they ask for exactly what this toolkit is offering. With more and more mandates for Independent Living without more funding, I see this tool being used in almost every CIL in the country as a much needed resource.” Continue reading