Category Archives: News

New toolkit available to help make rural community events accessible for all

Event accessibility, online and off

cartoon drawing of stick figure with curly brown hair sits at desk with laptop

With so many community events going online, it’s still important to remember to make sure they are accessible. While our newest toolkit was designed for use at both indoor and outdoor rural community events, there are many considerations that also apply to online events as well. The spirit of community inclusion, support and connection carries on until once again it is safe for us to gather in person at community events.


Looking for ways to help make community events more accessible? Check out RTC:Rural’s newest toolkit, the Community Assessment for Accessible Rural Events (or CAARE) Toolkit. The toolkit was created to help community members make sure their rural community events are accessible and inclusive. It includes resources such as checklists of accessibility issues and tools that help advocates conduct surveys and collect feedback from event attendees. The toolkit also contains materials with step-by-step instructions on how to analyze that feedback so it can be shared with event organizers.

cartoon drawing of person with prosthetic leg stands holding a pencil and checklist

 “Disability advocates and event organizers can use this toolkit to work together to plan for accessibility, identifying realistic accessibility goals and using a simple survey tool at the event to learn how people experience accessibility,” said Dr. Rayna Sage, RTC:Rural Project Director.

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Rural Institute project seeking volunteers with SCI for online intervention study

ZEST- promoting the psychological health of women with SCI

Social distancing during COVID-19 can leave many people feeling isolated and disconnected from their communities, which can have negative impacts on their psychological health. For those who have high-speed internet connections and devices that allow them to get online, virtual groups offer one way to stay connected.

Researchers at the Rural Institute are partnering with researchers at TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston, Texas, to test ZEST, an online psychological health promotion intervention for women with spinal cord injury (SCI). ZEST is a group program held in Second Life, an online virtual world.  

Volunteers may be eligible if they: 

  • Are a woman at least 18 years of age
  • Have had a spinal cord injury
  • Have had their injury for at least 1 year
  • Have access to a computer with high speed internet
  • Are able to use a computer and communicate in online group conversations in English

A small payment is offered for participation.

Volunteers are being recruited now through August 2020.

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New research brief: How do adults with travel-limiting disabilities get around?

Transportation is still a barrier

Cover/first page of research brief: America at a glance- how do working-age adults with travel-limiting disabilities get around?

RTC:Rural’s newest research brief examines how rural people with disabilities use different types of transportation. These include being a driver, asking others for rides, special transportation services, reduced-fare taxis, and public transportation.

People with disabilities, especially in rural areas, still report transportation as a significant barrier to full inclusion and participation in community life, nearly 30 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. Understanding how people with disabilities get around is an important first step for improving transportation options.

Using data from the 2017 National Household Travel Survey, this research brief explores travel behaviors and characteristics of rural and urban people with disabilities.

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Skilled Nursing Facilities in Rural Communities: Opportunities for partnering on COVID-19 response efforts

Guest blog post by Dr. Meg Ann Traci, RTC:Rural Knowledge Broker


The devastating and disproportionate rates of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and deaths in institutional settings continues to be part of the national crisis. With data from the 23 states that publicly report data on deaths within long term care facilities, such as nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates more than one in four COVID-19 related deaths in those states (27%) occurred in such settings. The threat within these medical and personal care settings put people with disabilities and others unable to maintain and manage independence in the community, at increased risk. In rural areas, the threat to such institutionalized populations is likely even greater.

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New fact sheet: How will the COVID-19 recession impact people with disabilities in rural America?

Financial health, employment, and COVID-19

front page of fact sheet: how will the COVID-19 recession impact people with disabilities in rural America?

While many Americans will suffer in the coming recession, people with disabilities in rural areas are especially vulnerable because they are less likely to have an emergency savings fund, have access to paid leave, or be able to work from home.

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COVID-19: An increased threat to people with disabilities living in rural institutions

Guest blog post by Dr. Meg Ann Traci, RTC:Rural Knowledge Broker.


While rural America is already known to experience higher rates of health disparities than urban, state and local public health data underscore that the current novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic will  continue to harm rural people. COVID-19 is making its way to some of the most rural states of the nation. Just this past week,  Alaska’s Kodiak Island Borough had its first diagnosed case of COVID-19 (April 16, 2020); Wyoming experienced its first fatalities (April 15, 2020); and South Dakota is managing 518 cases identified in a meat processing facility (April 17, 2020).  

Additionally, local and national news headline stories revealed the increased burden of the virus among residents and workers in group quarters such as prisons, nursing homes, and juvenile group homes (non-correctional). The high rates of infection and deaths at a long term care facility in Kirkland, Washington, caught the nation’s attention and refocused the public health response efforts on institutional settings.

Because people living in institutional settings are more likely to report disabilities than the general population and these settings are not evenly distributed between urban and rural areas across the United States, rural people with disabilities have a lot at stake in efforts to address the pandemic and outbreaks in institutional settings.

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RTC: Rural research shows higher risks for rural people during COVID-19

“Not only do you have to travel far to get to beds,” Grieman said, “You’re going to a place where there are more people, where there is also an outbreak, and those beds may also still be in high demand. So, that’s what I find particularly disconcerting.”

RTC:Rural Project Director Lillie Grieman in a recent news article on Public News Service, on why rural people with disabilities are at higher risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rural people with disabilities and barriers to hospital access

Icon of a person in a hospital bed. There is a cross in a map symbol above the bed to symbolize a hospital.
Hospital Bed by Sergey Demushkin from the Noun Project

Rural people with disabilities face many barriers to accessing health care, particularly Intensive Care Units and hospital beds. Hospital capacity varies greatly, as does the prevalence of people with disabilities. Typically, there are fewer hospital beds and higher rates of disability in rural places than urban ones.

Project Director Lillie Greiman discusses some of these barriers in a recent news article- read or listen to the news story through the following link:

Rural Montanans with Disabilities Face Challenges from Home to Hospital

Travis Hoffman, advocacy coordinator for Summit Independent Living, was also interviewed in the article. Summit is a long-time RTC:Rural partner.

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Reaching Consumers During COVID-19 with the Healthy Community Living Program

The Healthy Community Living (HCL) Program is a collection of workshops that support opportunities for all people to live well and participate in their communities.

HCL is usually delivered through in-person workshops. Since in-person delivery of services is not recommended or not permitted right now as we all live with the presence of COVID-19, we’re sharing some ways to make HCL available to consumers remotely.

Limited offer: Access HCL for free now through May 1

HCL CLS LWC Logos - link to website

To help provide another way for people to connect to peer support, and also for CIL staff to access professional development trainings they can do on their own time, HCL is offering a free one-year license, now through May 1.

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Identifying potential hospital bed shortages for people with disabilities

Recent models from ProPublica, Imperial College, and others predict that millions of people who contract COVID-19 will be hospitalized and many hospitals across the country may not be prepared to treat the influx of patients.

COVID-19 molecule

People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to impacts from COVID-19, both directly and indirectly. While data about how this virus will impact the health and well-being of people with disabilities is currently limited, people with disabilities are often at greater risk of chronic health conditions, and thus may be more susceptible to infection. People with disabilities also face disruptions in services for daily needs, which could exacerbate conditions unrelated to COVID-19.

Overall, individuals who experience disability are at greater risk for being hospitalized either because they have contracted COVID-19 or because pre-existing health conditions have worsened.


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Recognizing people with disabilities in the COVID-19 pandemic

Understanding the needs of a community is imperative to effectively plan for any type of emergency response, be it natural disaster or a pandemic. As people around the world are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the needs of people with disabilities should not be overlooked or go unaddressed as members of those communities. To assess the impact of COVID on people with disabilities and their needs, it’s important to understand the prevalence of disability by the functional limitations of people living with disabilities experience in their communities.  

According to the American Community Survey, about 41 million, or 13%, of Americans have at least one type of disability (ACS 2015). 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.

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).

Graphic showing information about the number of households in the US with disability. Full text description in caption.
Graphic from poster presentation “How far do you travel for CIL services?” by Kourtney Johnson, Christiane von Reichert, and Lillie Greiman for the 2017 APRIL conference.
Text description: icon of a green house in a circle with this text: Households in the US = 116,926,305. Same green house in a circle icon with three figures, one using a wheelchair, with this text: Households with disability* = 29,344,352, or 25%. *All households in which at least one person has a disability. There could be one, or more, people with disabilities in each household. There is a box around the graphic, and on top of the frame is a small figure using a walker as a mobility aid.

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