Category Archives: News

Dr. Tom Seekins honored with Lifetime Achievement Award from American Public Health Association

RTC:Rural co-director Dr. Tom Seekins was recently honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Public Health Association (APHA). The award “is presented to a person who, over the course of his or her career, has made a major contribution to the improvement of health and quality of life for people with disabilities through research, teaching, advocacy, or practice.”

To see a captioned video of Dr. Seekins’ acceptance speech, click on the embedded video below.


Dr. Seekins was also honored at the 2017 Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) conference in Spokane for his support, involvement, and contributions to the Rural Independent Living and Disability Rights Movement.

Honoring Tom Seekins

The following is reprinted from the 23rd APRIL conference program with permission.

Dr. Tom Seekins and Dr. Glen White posing after Dr. Seekins accepts his award from Dr. White.

Dr. Tom Seekins (left) accepting his award at the APRIL 2017 conference from Dr. Glen White (right).

Dr. Tom Seekins was one of the very first people I met when I began my work with APRIL.  I owe him a huge debt of gratitude.  He, along with Dr. Devva Kasnitz and Linda Gonzales wrote our Rural Transportation Demonstration grant through the Department of Education which allowed APRIL to finally hire staff, i.e. me!!  Tom is such a genuine and gentle soul.  His soft-spoken manner and kind face represent home to many of us.  He is not only a steadfast supporter of APRIL but a trusted and respected voice and scholar in the Rural Independent Living field and for People with Disabilities as a whole.  His dedicated life’s work has helped us all understand the distribution of people with disabilities throughout our country and our communities and also highlights the continuing struggles that people with disabilities in Rural America deal with in trying to access services.  His contributions are invaluable.

Tom Seekins is the kind of person you would want around in a crisis.  He has a calming effect and a grounding energy that is so valuable and rare.  It has been my sincere honor to have worked with him for 17 years.  I am a better, more thoughtful person because of it.”

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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.

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New Rural Disability Resource Library website launched!

logo of the rural disability resource library websiteRTC:Rural just launched a new website, the Rural Disability Resource Library. The website was created to be an easily accessible and searchable set of resources for people with disabilities who live in rural areas. It contains fact sheets, how-to guides, info for conducting workshops, web resources, and much more.

Who is it intended for?

Many different people will find the resources on this website useful. There are resources for people with different types of disabilities and their family members. Some resources are also designed for people who serve those with disabilities, such as policy makers and care givers. The resources listed here have been designed for, or are useful for, those who live in rural areas but could also be useful for people living in more urban areas.

Why a rural resource library?

Rural towns are different than cities and the people who live there sometimes have different needs. There are lots of resources available online for people with disabilities, but it can be difficult to sort through them and find ones that are most useful. Also, very few resources exist that have been designed with rural communities in mind. This website helps make the job of finding relevant resources easier for people who live in rural areas, and those who serve them.

Webinar: Strengthening Public Health Workforce Competencies in a Rural State

Professional headshot of Dr. Adriane Griffen

Dr. Adriane Griffen, Senior Director, Public Health & Leadership, Association of University Centers on Disabilities.

This webinar for public health and disability service providers about including people with disabilities in public health plans and efforts was held October 17, 2017.

The webinar, entitled Including People with Disabilities—Public Health Workforce Competencies, was presented by Dr. Adriane Griffen, Senior Director, Public Health & Leadership, at the Association of University Centers on Disability. This webinar washosted by The Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities and Dr. Meg Ann Traci, RTC:Rural colleague and Director of the Montana Disability and Health Program (MTDH).

This webinar was recorded and you can view the archived video and slides here.

Dr. Griffen provided an overview of the competencies and linkages to public health accreditation and information on local and national resources to help public health organizations strengthen their workforce and better include people with disabilities. The webinar also provided a forum for participants to discuss current resources and strategies being used by others in the field.

The webinar was a Montana-specific version of a previous workforce competencies webinar Dr. Griffen participated in on January 24, 2017. RTC:Rural is pleased to support this webinar as a way to share knowledge between national, state, and local public health professionals and disability service providers about including people with disabilities in public health plans in a rural state like Montana. Continue reading

Exchanging Knowledge and Expertise: RTC:Rural to engage with stakeholders at APRIL conference

Logo for the 23rd APRIL conference. Indivisible with Liberty and Justice for All.

Spokane, here we come!

RTC:Rural is busy prepping for the 23rd annual Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) conference, which will be held October 20-23rd 2017, in Spokane, Washington. This year’s theme is “Indivisible with Liberty and Justice for All.”

As well as having two vendor tables inviting engagement with conference attendees, RTC:Rural staff will give two presentations. The first, “Social Media: Reaching Farther, Working Better” will be about using social media in telecommunication and to promote independent living skills, and the second, titled “Asking Questions Leads to Solutions: Tools for Today and Tomorrow” will be a workshop featuring RTC:Rural research that has led to tools and products.

Social Media: Reaching Farther, Working Better

In this presentation, RTC:Rural Research Associate Dr. Rayna Sage, Communications Associate Justice Ender, and undergraduate student researcher Megan Miller will share tips and tricks on how Centers for Independent Living (CILs) can utilize social media to enhance workflow, bridge main and branch offices, and reach the rural communities they serve. Ender and Miller will also share research and practical tips on how to use Facebook to share information and encourage discussion. Dr Sage will share insights from her one-on-one interviews with young adults in rural communities, and discuss how they are—or are not—using social media to connect around local events.

Asking Questions Leads to Solutions: Tools for Today and Tomorrow

This workshop will highlight some of the many RTC:Rural products and tools that have been developed as a result of our research. Presenters include Director of Knowledge Translation Tracy Boehm Barrett, Director of Employment Research Dr. Catherine Ipsen, Project Director Lillie Greiman, Training Associate Maggie Lawrence, Communications Associate Kerry Morse, and Knowledge Translation Associate Lauren Smith. Continue reading

Free rural transportation toolkit now available from APRIL and RTC:Rural

cover of the document "toolkit for operating a rural transportation voucher program"The Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) and the RTC:Rural are excited to announce that an updated version of the Toolkit for Operating a Rural Transportation Voucher Program is now available to download for FREE. The Toolkit, used to help solve problems in areas that lack transportation options, is available in PDF and text-only versions. Individualized training and technical assistance is available from APRIL for a fee. Contact Billy Altom, Executive director of APRIL, at bwaltom@sbcglobal.net for more information.

Click here to download the toolkit.

What is the Toolkit for Operating a Rural Transportation Voucher Program?

The Toolkit for Operating a Rural Transportation Voucher Program provides a model that describes how to bring together community members and resources to develop and operate a transportation system for people with disabilities in rural areas.

In this model, eligible riders receive a voucher checkbook with an allocation of miles from a sponsoring agency. The agency negotiates with public and private transportation providers to accept the voucher checks as payment for rides, and can help riders organize potential volunteer drivers. Community members may volunteer to become drivers, and will be reimbursed up to the federal maximum rate for mileage reimbursement. In addition, other agencies that provide transportation, such as a council on aging or a developmental disability provider, can also be part of the voucher system. As long as there is room, riders from different sponsoring agencies can ride in the same vehicles. Continue reading

Living Well Intro Webinar videos now available

:ogo for Living Well with a Disability

Unable to attend the Living Well Intro webinar we hosted on August 24, or want to review the information covered? Then you’re in luck—the video recordings are now available to view online. There are two recordings from the webinar:

Program overview portion of webinar

The first webinar recording features RTC:Rural Training Associate Maggie Lawrence giving an introduction to the Living Well with a Disability (LWD) program. In the video, she introduces LWD program content and the Living Well Facilitator Training website. She also explains the process for an organization to become a licensed program provider and for staff to become consumer workshop facilitators.

View the LWD Program Overview video here: Living Well with a Disability Intro Webinar: Program Overview

Guest speakers portion of webinar

The second recording features three guest speakers who describe implementing LWD at their CILs: Bert Rios, Outreach Coordinator at S.M.I.L.E. in Yuma, Arizona; Dermot Thiel, Program Director at Wyoming Independent Living in Laramie, Wyoming; and Jude Monson, Program Manager at Summit Independent Living in Missoula, Montana.

The speakers share their insights and experiences of using the LWD program with their organizations, and answer questions from webinar participants about their variations on implementing the program. Rios, Thiel, and Monson each have years of experience implementing the Living Well program with diverse populations and offer their perspectives on program impact, adaptability and sustainability.

View the Guest Speaker video here: Living Well with a Disability Intro Webinar: Guest Speakers Continue reading

Resources for inclusive emergency prep and response

two people push a person in a wheelchair through a flooded street

Photo by habeebee / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Current natural disasters, including the wildfires burning across the Western United States and the hurricanes impacting the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard, require us to look at the best practices and resources available to support all people, including those with disabilities, in preparing for and dealing with emergencies. In rural America, where it can be challenging to access resources on a good day due to geography, transportation, or scarcity, inclusive preparation and response is especially important.

Here are a couple resources that RTC:Rural and our partners recommend that can help people with disabilities plan for and recover from emergencies and other natural disasters.

Emergency Preparedness Toolkit

The Montana Disability and Health Program (MTDH) Emergency Preparedness Toolkit contains resources to help individuals with disabilities, their families, caretakers, and communities plan and prepare for emergency situations. The toolkit’s purpose is to increase awareness of inclusive emergency preparedness planning, and to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in emergency planning, from the individual to the community and state levels.

The Toolkit contains information on many topics, including:

  • How to register and record medical information so it can be clearly communicated with medical personnel during an emergency
  • How to assess emergency shelters for accessibility
  • First aid tips for pet owners
  • Emergency driving tactics and tips
  • How to promote involvement of people with disabilities in the planning stages of emergency preparedness

FTA Hurricane Harvey Information for Transit Agencies

In addition, Billy Altom, the Executive Director of the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living, shared this information from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) about Hurricane Harvey and the FTA Emergency Relief Program, which contains useful information for transit agencies who receive FTA funds. Continue reading

Become a certified Working Well with a Disability facilitator- register now!

Working Well with a Disability

September means back to school, changing leaves, pumpkin spice-flavored everything and… Working Well with a Disability Facilitator Training!

Registration for the September 2017 Working Well with a Disability online facilitator training is now open. The training will take place the week of September 18. Space is limited, so please only register if you know you can attend. Registration closes on September 11, 2017.

Working Well with a Disability Facilitator Training Details

Training dates: Sept. 18-22. Training includes online self-study and discussion participation and a live webinar on Sept. 22.

Total time required: 8-10 hours (estimate) over 5 business days, in addition to time to read the Working Well manual.

Cost: $130 per person. Cost includes a manual in your preferred format.

Registration deadline: Sept. 11

How to register: Visit Working Well Sept. 2017 Training Registration

After registration, you will receive an email containing a training schedule, a training overview, and the link with instructions to finalize your registration and payment.

Once you’ve registered, you should also have your agency review and agree to the Organizational Licensing Agreement, which is found here: Working Well Organizational Licensing Agreement Continue reading

Does your bathroom routine drain your battery? How effort and exercise shape community participation

A bathroom with a shower chair and a grab bar in the shower.

Shower chairs and grab bars are some of the adaptive bathroom equipment used in this study. Photo from Healthy Community Living (www.healthycommunityliving.com).

What do showering, brushing your teeth, and “visiting the porcelain throne” have to do with energy levels and community participation? More than you might think, especially for people with mobility impairments.

Effort Capacity and Choice, a current research project at RTC:Rural led by Andrew Myers, is working to better understand how what happens in the bathroom impacts what happens outside of the bathroom. The project is a collaboration between the RTC:Rural, the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research, and the New Directions program within the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science at the University of Montana.

Previous RTC:Rural research has shown that many people who use mobility equipment live in homes that do not meet their needs, specifically in regards to the accessibility of their bathrooms and the entrances to their homes. 56% live in homes with inaccessible bathrooms, and 57% live in homes with a stepped entrance.

This is especially troubling as the need for affordable, accessible housing is only going to increase in the next few decades with an aging American population. In rural areas, where people are already more likely to be unemployed, living in poverty, elderly, and have a disability, this housing need will be especially severe.

RTC:Rural analysis of the American Time Use Survey has also shown that people with mobility impairments bathe less often, and when they do bathe they spend more time doing so. The Effort Capacity and Choice project builds on this information by investigating whether the amount of effort a person thinks they must exert affects their choices to be active at home and in their community. Continue reading