Category Archives: News

Disability rates in the path of Hurricane Florence

Understanding the needs of a community is imperative in order to effectively plan for natural disaster emergency response. As Hurricane Florence continues to impact the Southeast 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.

People with disabilities: About 41 million, or 13%, of Americans have at least one type of disability.  The vast majority (38 million) live in households with other people and a significant number of people with disabilities live in group quarters, which includes dormitories, nursing homes, and prisons.

People without 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.

(See Prevalence of Disability: Individual and Household Context for more about this research).

In the areas at most risk from Hurricane Florence, there are particularly high rates of disability at the county level. This map shows disability rates by county across the U.S.

Map of disability rates by county

Click on the map for a larger, downloadable and shareable version and a text description.

These next two maps show disability rates in the counties that are in the path of Hurricane Florence, as well as the number of people with disabilities in the path of Hurricane Florence.

This map shows the percent of people with disabilities by county in the path of Hurricane Florence. See below for a text description.

The map above shows the percent of people, by county, estimated by the ACS to have disabilities in the Southeastern region of the United States. Disability rates are broken into four levels: 4.7-12.8%, 12.9-15.5%, 15.6-18.9%, and 19%-36.9%. Darker purple indicates a higher rate. The map shows counties just inland from the coast in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia as having high rates of disability (19% -36.9%).

The map shows the number of people with disabilities in the path of Hurricane Florence. See below for a text description.

The map above shows the number of people, by county, estimated by the ACS to have disabilities living in the Southeastern region of the United States. Population is broken into four levels: 13 – 1,788 individuals, 1,789 – 4, 289 individuals, 4,290 – 10,134 individuals, and 10,135 – 984,716 individuals. Darker purple indicates a higher population. The map shows counties with large populations of people with disabilities (10,000 and more) throughout North and South Carolina, and the northern coast of Florida.

In order to ensure that needed accommodations are provided at shelters, emergency planners need to know the functional needs of the populations who may be coming to their shelters, not just that needs are present. The resources required for a person who is Deaf/hard of hearing are not mutually exclusive with the resources required for a person who uses a motorized wheelchair or for a person who is blind/low vision.

Our Disability in America map series breaks out this information. We have created maps that show rates of impairment type at the county level for the U.S. We use data from the American Community Survey (ACS), which does not directly measure disability. Instead, it uses questions related to difficulty and functional impairment to identify individuals who may experience a disability. The ACS asks six questions related to functional limitation:

  • Hearing difficulty: deaf or having serious difficulty hearing (all ages)
  • Vision difficulty: blind or having serious difficulty seeing, even when wearing glasses (all ages)
  • Cognitive difficulty: because of a physical, mental, or emotional problem, having difficulty remembering, concentrating, or making decisions (ages 5+)
  • Ambulatory (i.e. mobility) difficulty: having serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs (ages 5+)
  • Self-care difficulty: having difficulty bathing or dressing (ages 5+)
  • Independent living difficulty: because of a physical, mental, or emotional problem, having difficulty doing errands alone such as visiting a doctor’s office or shopping (ages 18+)

See Rural Matters: The Geography of Disability in Rural America for more information about the ACS and our work on disability demographics.

Cropped map of Disability in America: People with Hearing Difficulty (2015). Click on the labled link in the text for more information and a text description of this map. Our maps break out each of these functional limitations:

Maps of Disability Rates – Vision Difficulty

Maps of Disability Rates – Hearing Difficulty

Maps of Disability Rates – Cognitive Difficulty

Maps of Disability Rates – Mobility Difficulty

Maps of Disability Rates – Self-Care Difficulty

Maps of Disability Rates – Independent Living Difficulty

We also have created maps that show the disability rate in rural counties, among veterans, by gender, and the poverty rate among people with disabilities, each broken out by county across the U.S. All of these maps can be viewed and downloaded here: Geography and Rural Disability Maps

FEMA works with national disability groups to make sure that emergency plans and shelters are inclusive and accessible. FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination created a document titled Guidance on Planning for Integration of Functional Needs Support Services in General Population Shelters to help emergency and shelter planners meet access and functional needs in general population shelters.

For more FEMA resources and information, see:

For more information on people with disabilities and emergency disaster response, see:

Additional Maps


RTC:Rural sponsors workshops on restricted-access federal data

RTC:Rural, along with the University of Montana (UM) Department of Geography and the UM Faculty Development Office, is pleased to sponsor a workshop series for the UM research community on accessing restricted federal statistical research data. Funding has been provided by the Office of the Vice-President for Research and Creative Scholarship. Dr. Ben Cerf, a Census Bureau research economist and the administrator of the Northwest Federal Statistical Research Data Center at the University of Washington in Seattle, will present the workshops. The workshops will be held on October 17, 2018, at the University of Montana.

headshot of Dr. von Reichert. She is an older woman with short, gray/brown hair, wearing a pink striped shirt. She is standing outside, and there is a view overlooking a city and ocean behind her.

Dr. Christiane von Reichert.

Dr. Christiane von Reichert, professor of Geography at UM and an RTC:Rural research partner, was instrumental in bringing Dr. Cerf to campus. von Reichert has been in communication with Dr. Cerf about seeking access to restricted data to examining whether or not urban-rural migration is a factor contributing to higher rural than urban disability rates.   Continue reading

RTC:Rural Housing Research Brief explores how housing impacts participation

Screen shot of the cover of the research brief "Life starts at home: exploring how housing impacts participation for people with disabilities."

RTC:Rural recently published a new Research Brief that shares current housing research.

To view and download the Research Brief, click here: Life starts at home: Exploring how housing impacts participation for people with disabilities


Housing and Community Participation

How a space is organized shapes how you use that space. There have been many studies on how the built environment, which includes everything from roads and sidewalks to buildings and parking lots, impacts how people move through and engage with their community. We know that physical barriers in the community, such as stairs, curbs, narrow building entrances, broken sidewalks, and long travel routes can prevent people with mobility impairments from accessing community spaces and limits their ability to move around their community independently.

By removing these barriers, people with disabilities have more opportunities to do things like buy groceries, attend school, be employed, go to the doctor, and socialize or recreate as they wish. Fewer barriers in the environment can mean more opportunities for community participation. Continue reading

Healthy Community Living Program Releases Video Series Showcasing Development

Healthy Community Living logoCurious about what goes into creating a program like Healthy Community Living? What actually happens when you get people from across the country working together to create workshops that will help people with disabilities set and reach personal goals, live healthy lives, and learn skills that support living independently?

Just ask the Healthy Community Living (HCL) team!

The HCL program recently released three videos that give a glimpse of the thousands of hours of dedicated work that have gone into it so far. The videos feature RTC:Rural staff, Mary Olson-Willard from the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living, University of Montana students, and staff from the University of Montana’s School of Extended and Lifelong Learning. Check them out below! Continue reading

Register now for the September Working Well with a Disability facilitator training


Working Well with a Disability

a bag of small pumpkins and squash

Fall is just around the corner. That means back to school, changing leaves, pumpkin spice-flavored everything and… Working Well with a Disability Facilitator Training!

Registration for the September 2018 Working Well with a Disability online facilitator training is now open. The training will take place the week of September 17th.

Space is limited, so please only register if you know you can attend. Registration closes on September 10th, 2018.

Working Well with a Disability Facilitator Training Details

Three women sit at a table. Training dates: September 17th – 21st. Training includes online self-study and discussion participation and a live webinar on September 21st.

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: September 10th

How to register: Visit Working Well September 2018 Training Pre-Registration Continue reading

Rural Institute researchers awarded 5-year grant to continue research and training

The University of Montana Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities (RIIC) is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a five-year, $4.3 million grant to support its Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities (RTC:Rural). The grant was awarded by the National Institute on Disability Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research, and will be led by Dr. Catherine Ipsen, the project’s principal investigator. The award continues 30 years of RTC:Rural research and training to improve the lives of rural people with disabilities.

RTC:Rural staff photo. See caption for list of names.

RTC:Rural staff pose for a picture at UM. Front row (left to right): Tannis Hargrove, Lillie Greiman, Justice Ender. Back row (left to right): Dr. Catherine Ipsen, Andrew Myers, Lauren Smith, Maggie Lawrence, Tracy Boehm Barrett. Not pictured: Dr. Craig Ravesloot, Dr. Meg Traci, Dr. Rayna Sage, and Dr. Bryce Ward.

“The opportunity to build on our past work and continue to conduct applied research with our stakeholders from the disability community is a great honor,” said Ipsen.

RTC:Rural research will address barriers identified by rural people with disabilities in the areas of health, community living, and employment. These barriers are often related to the limited resources available in rural environments. “Our team of researchers and knowledge translation staff have put together a portfolio of projects and activities that are responsive to, and inclusive of, people with disabilities and those who serve them,” said Tracy Boehm Barrett, RTC:Rural Director of Knowledge Translation. Continue reading

“This is a great forum for us to all talk and learn:” Second Living/Working Well Facilitator Peer-to-Peer Series Call a Success

A circle of clip art people surrounds the Living and Working Well with a Disability logo, Peer-to-Peer Series written underneath.RTC:Rural’s second Peer-to-Peer Series call for Living Well and Working Well with a Disability Facilitators was held on June 28th, 2018. Twenty-two participants joined the conference call and shared their experiences, challenges, and successes as facilitators. The topic of the second call was program implementation, recruitment, and sustainability.

Facilitation skill-building is not the only thing to consider when planning a Living or Working Well workshop in your community. The programs require attention to the needs and capacity of your organization, as well as the needs and interests of participants. Continue reading

RTC:Rural shares Self-Employment Guide with Tribal VR

logo for Consortia of Administrators for Native American Rehabilitaiton, Inc. A bald eagle with the international symbol for disability in front of a background patterend with Native American designs. Dr. Catherine Ipsen, RTC:Rural Director of Employment Research, and Lauren Smith, Knowledge Translation Associate, recently presented at the Consortia of Administrators for Native American Rehabilitation (CANAR) 2018 Mid-Year conference held in Prior Lake, Minnesota. In their presentation, “Expanding Counselor and Consumer Capacity in Self-Employment,” Ipsen and Smith highlighted RTC:Rural’s Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Self-Employment Guide, developed as part of the Rural Self-Employment Opportunities research project. The presentation showcased the online guide, shared interactive materials, and explored strategies for using the website in the counseling process.

The VR Self-Employment Guide is a multi-media website created to help people with disabilities and vocational rehabilitation counselors better understand the self-employment process. Consumers and counselors can work from the same material to decide if self-employment is a good option, and if so, to develop a feasible business plan. The website is self-directed, and can be used by individuals on their own or with the guidance of a VR counselor or business development mentor. Continue reading

From Recovery to Rehabilitation to Community Living: Resources for People with Spinal Cord Injury, Traumatic Brain Injury and Burn Injury

This week, RTC:Rural is featuring a guest blog by our colleague Cynthia Overton, Principal Research Analysist and Co-Project Director of the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center at the American Institutes for Research.

MSKTC Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center. SCI,TBI, Burn. The Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC) works to make sure the latest and best research findings are being used in healthcare decision-making. In order to help improve the health and quality of life of people with spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, and burn injuries, MSKTC creates resources and products that share relevant research findings with the people who need this information.

The resources and information created and shared by MSKTC are important resources that help support people with disabilities so they can engage in their rural communities. In promoting this shared goal, RTC:Rural helps to share these resources with people in rural communities who can benefit from this information.

Continue reading

Living and Working Well with a Disability Facilitators: Register today for Peer-to-Peer Call #2!

Text description below.

Register today for the next Living & Working Well with a Disability Facilitator Peer-to-Peer Series Call! Registration link is below.

Mark your calendars— the second Peer-to-Peer Series conference call for Living and Working Well with a Disability Facilitators is scheduled for June 28, 2018, at 11 a.m. MT. The call topic is implementation, recruitment, and sustainability. These calls are free and open to any Living and Working Well facilitators, though registration is preferred. Continue reading