Category Archives: News

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.

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 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

How RTC:Rural works to address the “Civic Desert” for rural youth

Here at RTC:Rural, we know from working with our stakeholders that there are many unique aspects of living in a rural environment – both challenges and opportunities. Our Center provides technical assistance to people with disabilities and their service providers to address these challenges.

A recent article in The Conversation’s series on rural America, by researchers at Tufts University, recently coined a new term: the “Civic Desert.” They use Civic Desert to refer to “places characterized by a dearth of opportunities for civic and political learning and engagement, and without institutions that typically provide opportunities like youth programming, culture and arts organizations and religious congregations.” Click here to read their analysis of the effects of such a lack of access to civic opportunities on youth voting, titled “Study: 60 percent of rural millennials lack access to a political life.”

The challenge of access to civic opportunity for rural youth with disabilities is an issue that crosses boundaries of political parties and values. RTC:Rural and our partners  are currently working to address this issue in several ways.

Youth put their arms around each other as part of a group activity

Youth activity at APRIL 2016 conference

APRIL Youth Advocacy Committee – We provide technical assistance to the new Youth Advocacy Committee of the Associate of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL). This committee, an outgrowth of the vibrant youth activities at the annual APRIL conference, brings together rural youth from across the country to prioritize and address issues associated with living with a disability in rural America. The committee has regular meetings – for more information contact APRIL Youth Programs Coordinator Sierra Royster. Continue reading

RTC:Rural study finds longstanding interpretation of disability data incomplete

Researchers with RTC:Rural have shown that the standardized disability questions used by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services identify two distinct groups of people with disabilities: those with permanent disability and those with temporary disability. Their findings were published today in the American Journal of Public Health: click here to read the full journal article.

Man with cane walking in front of farm

Researchers at RTC:Rural have shown that the standardized disability questions used by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services identify two distinct groups of people with disabilities: those with permanent disability and those with temporary disability.

The findings contradict the long-standing assumption by researchers and policymakers who use HHS disability data that it represents only people with long-term disabilities. The RTC:Rural study clarifies the survey collects information from two important subgroups: those with permanent disability, and those experiencing a temporary disability at the time of the survey.

The title of the paper is “Disability Items from the Current Population Survey (2008-2015) and Permanent Versus Temporary Disability Status.” Coauthors on the study include Bryce Ward, associate director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at UM; RTC:Rural research associates Andrew Myers and Jennifer Wong; and Craig Ravesloot, RTC:Rural director.

“Our findings suggest that the current understanding of the entire population of people with disabilities based on HHS data is incomplete, because we have not yet accurately described the characteristics and status of these two subgroups,” said Ravesloot. “This can potentially have huge implications in public health policies.”

Continue reading

Six charts that illustrate the divide between rural and urban America

RTC:Rural is proud that our researchers were invited to contribute to this article, which was published in The Conversation on March 17, 2017, and subsequently on PBS News, US News & World Report, and Salon.


Authors: Brian Thiede, Pennsylvania State University; Lillie Greiman, The University of Montana; Stephan Weiler, Colorado State University; Steven C. Beda, University of Oregon, and Tessa Conroy, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Editor’s note: We’ve all heard of the great divide between life in rural and urban America. But what are the factors that contribute to these differences? We asked sociologists, economists, geographers and historians to describe the divide from different angles. The data paint a richer and sometimes surprising picture of the U.S. today. The Conversation

1. Poverty is higher in rural areas

Discussions of poverty in the United States often mistakenly focus on urban areas. While urban poverty is a unique challenge, rates of poverty have historically been higher in rural than urban areas. In fact, levels of rural poverty were often double those in urban areas throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

While these rural-urban gaps have diminished markedly, substantial differences persist. In 2015, 16.7 percent of the rural population was poor, compared with 13.0 percent of the urban population overall – and 10.8 percent among those living in suburban areas outside of principal cities.

Continue reading

New tool available to access disability data

Finding big data about rural America is challenging. Finding big data about disability in rural America can seem impossible. Meanwhile, access to current information about disability in rural areas is important as these areas consistently experience higher disability rates than their urban counterparts.

Disability Counts logoThe Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities (RTC:Rural) recently re-launched the Disability Counts Data Finder, an online tool that allows users to easily access disability data for every county in the United States and Puerto Rico. Using a simple interface, users select their state and counties of interest, and generate a table with population estimates, disability rates, margins of error, and rural/urban classifications.

Disability Counts uses the most recent 5-year American Community Survey data and the 2015 Office of Management and Budget Metropolitan-Micropolitan Statistical Areas delineation files. These datasets were specifically chosen so that Disability Counts could provide insight into the county’s rural status alongside the disability rate, clearly showing the correlation between disability rates and rural areas. We have found that this information is particularly sought after by advocates and policymakers.

Map of disability rates by county

Disability rates by county across the United States – rural counties consistently show higher disability rates than their urban counterparts.

Continue reading

RTC:Rural researchers featured in The Conversation article highlighting rural/urban divide

Headshots of the RTC:Rural researchers

Lillie Greiman, Andrew Myers and Christiane von Reichert

We are proud that the feature article of today’s issue of The Conversation newsletter includes the work of RTC:Rural’s geography project.

Lillie Greiman, M.A., and Andrew Myers, M.A., RTC:Rural Research Associates, with Christiane von Reichert, Ph.D., Professor of Geography at the University of Montana, contributed to an article about the rural/urban divide that was recently published on The Conversation.

Titled “Six charts that illustrate the divide between rural and urban America,” the article is a collaboration among the UM researchers and sociologists, economists, and historians at universities around the country. The article explores factors that contribute to the differences between life in rural and urban areas.

Greiman, Myers, and von Reichert contributed the section about disability rates across the country, based on their previous research and analysis of the most recent American Community Survey data.

The Conversation is an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community. It is a foundation-supported news source with a mission to help professors get high-quality research into the public sphere.

New Online Training Platform Enhances Living Well with a Disability Program

Screenshot of new Living Well with a Disability websiteRTC:Rural is thrilled to announce an exciting update to the Living Well with a Disability Program with a new online Facilitator Training. The new program updates  make it easier for organizations to train staff and peers, prepare workshop materials, and receive technical support from both RTC:Rural and fellow Living Well with a Disability Program Providers.

After several months of planning, collaboration, and development with key stakeholders, skilled professionals, and multi-media experts, we are proud to share the beautiful new online learning experience to continue our long history of providing this evidence-based health promotion program for people with disabilities. Continue reading