Over the past four decades, the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) has developed many resources to support the community living needs of people with disabilities. While the adoption and use of these resources has helped many people, few of them have been used in rural communities. People with disabilities living in rural communities experience unique barriers to accessing resources and services that are different from those faced by people with disabilities in more metropolitan areas (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017; Cromartie, 2018).
Centers for Independent Living (CILs) are community based nonprofit organizations designed and operated by people with disabilities to support people with disabilities to live independently in their communities (National Council on Independent Living, 2019). Most CIL offices are in urban areas, but their coverage areas almost always include rural areas. They aim to serve rural people, but admittedly struggle to do so given the limited services and supports in many unserved and underserved rural communities. In response, we identified community development as a potential strategy to connect NIDILRR-funded resources to rural people with disabilities via trained and mentored CIL staff. Community development involves working directly with local community members who come together to make decisions and take collective action to bring about positive change.
The goal of the Rural Community Living Development project is to partner with the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) to develop and implement a peer to peer mentor training for CILs that prepares staff to work on community development activities in rural areas. The outcome of this process will be better support for rural people with disabilities to live independently in their communities by accessing NIDILRR-funded community living resources.
The training will be created using participatory methods with a team of RTC:Rural, APRIL and nationwide CIL staff. While the training content will depend on partner input, the intent is for it to provide guidance to CIL staff for engaging local community partners in a community development process. Main topics may include identifying community needs, deciding on appropriate strategies to address those needs, and applying promising and evidence-based solutions.
In partnership and collaboration with APRIL, we will train CIL staff to use the new curriculum, provide guidance for them to implement the rural community development process in rural communities, help identify possible solutions and/or community-based interventions, and evaluate the effectiveness of the community living development process.
Anticipated project outcomes include an adoptable peer to peer training for the CIL network, increased knowledge of promising community-based solutions and interventions for CILs, and a sustainable model for replicable community development activities to meet the needs of rural people living with disabilities.
- Project dates: 2019-2024
- Funded by: National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research Grant No. 90DPKT0005
- Principle Staff: Rayna Sage, Craig Ravesloot
- Partners: Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) and participating CILs
- June 22, 2020: Project Snapshot: Rural Community Living Development