Category Archives: News

RTC:Rural researchers publish paper on rural/urban differences in social connectedness and perceived isolation for people with disabilities

Dr. Meredith Repke, RTC:Rural Research Associate, and Dr. Catherine Ipsen, RTC:Rural Director, recently published a paper in the Disability and Health Journal titled “Differences in social connectedness and perceived isolation among rural and urban adults with disabilities.”

Screenshot of the first page of journal article titled "Differences in social connectedness and perceived isolation among rural and urban adults with disabilities"

In the paper, Repke and Ipsen analyze survey data from the nation-wide Health Reform and Disability Survey to explore how a number of factors are related to social participation and perceived isolation for people with disabilities, and to see if there are differences for those who live in rural vs urban areas. These factors include number of disabilities, self-rated health, employment status, and living arrangements (alone or with others).

Previous studies have compared social isolation to smoking in terms of risk to public health. Some groups of people have a much higher risk of social isolation, including people with disabilities and rural residents. This research builds on previous work by considering how the potentially compounding effects of disability status and living in a rural area may affect social participation and perceived isolation.  

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RTC:Rural fact sheet explores insurance coverage rates before and after ACA and Medicaid expansion

Screenshot of the first page of the ACA and Medicaid Expansion Associated with Increased Insurance Coverage for Rural Americans with Disabilities fact sheet.

The passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and adoption of Medicaid expansion was associated with substantial increases in insurance coverage across the United States (see Changes in coverage and access, MACPAC 2019). However, RTC:Rural researchers wanted to know how ACA policy changes and Medicaid expansion impacted people with disabilities, particularly those who live in rural areas.

To explore this question, RTC:Rural researchers analyzed microdata from the 2008-2013 American Community Survey from IPUMS-USA. Using these data, they were able to compare how insurance coverage has changed over time for people with and without disabilities in rural and urban places, and in expansion and non-expansion states.

Graphic sharing stats from analysis, which are in previous paragraphs.
[text description] The number of rural people with disabilities with health insurance in expansion states increased by 10.7%. The number of rural people with disabilities with health insurance in non-expansion states increased by 5.3%. Difference = 5.4%.
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People with disabilities living in the path of Hurricane Dorian

Map showing the number of people with disabilities (by county) living in the path of Hurricane Dorian. See text for full description.
Map of people with disabilities in the path of Hurricane Dorian. See below for larger, downloadable version and text description.

Understanding the needs of a community is imperative in order to effectively plan for natural disaster emergency response. As Hurricane Dorian heads toward the Florida coast, national, state and local community emergency planners are working to evacuate and shelter thousands of people who are fleeing their homes.

People with disabilities are one of many vulnerable groups especially at risk during natural disasters. In times of emergency, people will evacuate with their households, and will need to shelter with their households. It is not acceptable to separate families and households in times of crisis. Many family members are caregivers, so shelters need to be accessible so that people with disabilities and their families and caregivers can stay together.

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Research Snapshot: Rural Transportation Options

Quote: "While transportation can be a major problem, uniquely rural solutions exist." Andrew Myers, Rural Transportation Options Project Director

Nearly 30 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act people with disabilities still report transportation as a significant barrier to employment, health care, and community participation. This is especially true in rural communities where public transit may be inaccessible, unaffordable, inappropriate, or not available. While many unique solutions exist, there is a lack of evidence about how people use them and how they impact the health and well-being of people with disabilities.

To address this lack of knowledge, RTC:Rural is conducting research about rural transportation options in rural communities across America.

Andrew Myers, RTC:Rural Project Director, explains the project and its goals, and gives a quick progress update.

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International knowledge sharing: Egyptian education professionals travel to Missoula to learn about providing disability services

Rural Institute, University of Colorado Boulder Disability Services, and Disability Services for Students University of Montana logos

This September, nineteen higher education professionals from five different Egyptian public universities and officials from the Egyptian Ministry of Education will travel to Missoula to learn about how to ensure equal access to higher education for students with disabilities. The study tour is being hosted by the University of Montana’s Dr. Kaitlin Fertaly, RTC:Rural Research Associate, Dr. Anna-Margaret Goldman, Director of MonTECH, Amy Capolupo, Disability Services for Students Director, and the University of Colorado Boulder (CU).

Participants start their tour at the University of Montana in Missoula, MT, and then will travel to the University of Colorado, Boulder. They will also visit two community colleges, Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell, MT and Aims Community College in Greeley, CO.

“During their 10 days in the U.S., Egyptian university staff and leaders will learn how the University of Montana and the University of Colorado structure and administer their Disability Support Services program,” said Fertaly. “The goal is for participants to be better equipped with knowledge about university policies that promote inclusion and strategies for overcoming barriers to access.”

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Research Snapshot: PAS in Rural America

Rayna Sage at a rodeo with mountains in the background
Dr. Rayna Sage.

Approximately 10 million people with disabilities receive paid personal assistance services (PAS) in the United States. For many, these services are critical for social and community participation. However, little is known about rural-urban differences in PAS delivery and consumption, and how these services influence community participation and health.

To address this lack of understanding, RTC:Rural is conducting research on PAS in rural America.

Dr. Rayna Sage, RTC:Rural Project Director, explains the project and its goals, and gives a quick progress update.

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Using IPCD to create a tribal translation of the VR Self-Employment Guide

Screenshot of the Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation Self-Employment Toolkit homepage
Screenshot of the Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation Self-Employment Toolkit home page.

Last week, RTC:Rural was in Connecticut for the Consortia of Administrators for Native American Rehabilitation (CANAR) 2019 mid-year conference held in Mashantucket, CT. RTC:Rural Director Dr. Catherine Ipsen, Research Associate Dr. Meredith Repke, and Knowledge Translation Associate Lauren Smith met with advisor partners and presented the progress to date on the Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Self-Employment Toolkit.

CANAR meetings bring together representatives from tribal VR programs across the country two times each year. “The meetings provide an important opportunity to share our work and gather additional stakeholder input about efforts to translate our self-employment materials for tribal VR programs,” said Ipsen.  

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RTC: Rural project sets out to explore what types of transportation people in rural areas use

The Rural Transportation Options project, which will help build a more complete understanding of how rural people with disabilities use public and other forms of accessible transportation, is getting ready to begin a pilot survey. Paper surveys will be available on public buses in Park County, Montana later this year. There are also options to take the survey online, or to call in and take it over the phone.

Screenshot of the Park Co. and UM Transportation Survey

The survey includes questions about what type of transportation the participant is using for the current trip, the purpose of their trip, if the trip was scheduled ahead of time, and types of transportation used in the last 30 days.

“This brief ridership survey will help us: 1) understand how people use public transit in Park County, MT and 2) shape our survey materials and procedures for dissemination nationwide,” said Andrew Myers, RTC:Rural Project Director.  

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UM undergrad wins Best Presentation Award for research with RTC:Rural director on loneliness and aging

Over the past semester, RTC:Rural Director Dr. Catherine Ipsen worked with University of Montana (UM) undergraduate Nelson Weaver on his senior capstone project about the effects of loneliness on the aging population. Weaver’s poster presentation won a best presentation award at UM’s Conference of Undergraduate Research. He graduated in May 2018 with a major in psychology and a minor in communication studies.

Nelson Weaver holds his award and stands next to Catherine Ipsen.
Nelson Weaver (left) and Catherine Ipsen (right).

Weaver contacted Ipsen about his interest in psychology and well-being of those experiencing mental and physical impairments and asked about possible capstone research opportunities. “This inquiry came at the perfect time,” said Ipsen. “I was juggling lots of projects, but wanted to make headway on a grant proposal idea focused on aging and health impacts of loneliness. Nelson was the perfect fit.”

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New Book Chapter Looks at How Rural Culture, Inclusion, and Community Events Impact People with Disabilities

Quote from 'Disability and Rural Events'- "Having moments to recognize others and to be recognized as a community resource helps keep people with disabilities visible and engaged."

Dr. Rayna Sage, RTC:Rural Project Director, and Erin Flores, a former sociology undergraduate researcher at the University of Montana who graduated in 2018, recently co-authored a book chapter on the accessibility of rural community events. The chapter, titled “Disability and rural events: The cultural reproduction of inclusion and exclusion” is in Marginalisation and Events, which was published in January 2019 by Routledge.

“Rural community events are a time when community members are able to see how they are part of something bigger than their own individual experience,” said Sage. “Seeing friends and family and participating in activities that promote community identity helps sustain community and connectedness.”

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