Category Archives: News

Rural Institute Researchers awarded 5 year Rural Community Living Development Grant

The University of Montana Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities (RIIC) is pleased to announce a staff team has been awarded a five-year, $981,803 Disability and Rehabilitation Research Project grant by the National Institute on Disability Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research within the Administration for Community Living.

The newly funded project, Rural Community Living Development (RCLD), is led by Rural Sociologist and Project Director Dr. Rayna Sage, and Dr. Craig Ravesloot, Clinical Psychologist and Research Director for the Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities (RTC:Rural).

A group of people in a community park enjoying a picnic. Two of the people are using powerchairs.

The purpose of the Rural Community Living Development project is to provide space and facilitate conversations among community members to help them connect to resources and information they might not otherwise have access to.

Using a combination of independent living philosophy, peer mentoring and community development approaches, research staff will work with Centers for Independent Living (CILs) to take collective action that leads to positive change for and with people with disabilities living in rural areas.

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RTC:Rural travels to Grand Rapids for 25th annual APRIL conference

25th Annual APRIL National Conference on Rural Independent Living. 1995-2019. The Power of Rural.

RTC:Rural heads to Grand Rapids, Michigan this week for the 25th annual Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) conference. The conference will be October 25 – 28, and the theme is “The Power of Rural.” 

Harnessing the theme of this year’s conference, Project Directors Dr. Rayna Sage and Lillie Greiman, Director of Knowledge Translation Tracy Boehm Barrett, and Research Advisor Dr. Craig Ravesloot will give a presentation titled, “Using Rural IL Power to Address the Needs of People with Disabilities Living in Poverty.” In their presentation, they will discuss how poverty affects Independent Living (IL), rural resources that Centers for Independent Living (CILs) can leverage to help address poverty, and how community development strategies can address poverty among people with disabilities living in their community. Dr. Sage will also briefly describe a number of new opportunities for CILs to get involved in RTC:Rural’s research and rural community development projects to address local issues that affect IL services.

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RTC:Rural celebrates Disability Employment Month

The right talent, right now. National Disability Employment Awareness Month. #NDEAM. dol.gov/odep

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month! RTC:Rural joins with many others to celebrate the contributions of workers with disabilities. We are pleased to highlight the work being done to support people with disabilities in rural communities as they work towards achieving their employment goals.

Barriers to Rural Employment

A man using a wheelchair working at a grocery store.

For people with disabilities who live in rural areas, job opportunities are limited. There are physical barriers, such as inaccessible buildings and no accessible transportation, and also attitudinal barriers, such as negative stereotypes and discrimination. These barriers often keep people with disabilities from participating how they want in work, school, and community life. These barriers also contribute to increased social and economic inequality between people with and without disabilities.

Benefits of Employment

Employment has obvious economic benefits, but it also is important because it helps people participate in their communities and increases their overall well-being. Research shows that people with disabilities who are employed report that they participate more in their communities. They also feel more socially connected to other people.

For more on RTC:Rural’s recent research in this topic area, see “RTC:Rural researchers publish paper on rural/urban differences in social connectedness and perceived isolation for people with disabilities.”

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Visualizing disability data through maps: RTC:Rural’s state map series

Image of the people with disabilities: Alabama map on top of a background of other maps of Alabama showing different disability data.
Click on the image to view disability maps for the state of Alabama.

RTC:Rural’s Disability in America State Profile Map Series is well underway! We have maps for 17 states posted on the website so far, and more are coming soon. In the next two months general disability maps for every state (for example, Montana and Texas) and Puerto Rico will be complete and available on the RTC:Rural website. Once the general disability rate maps are completed, we will work to produce maps showing different topics for each state. These include:

  • Disability rates among females and males
  • People with vision, cognitive, mobility, self-care, and Independent Living difficulties
  • Veterans with disabilities
  • People with disabilities in poverty
  • Employment, unemployment, and out of labor force rates among people with disabilities
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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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