November 14, 2018

Researchers and project partners share perspectives on disability and the environment

Kelly, Troutman, Greiman, and Myers sit in the front of a room presenting. There is a slide projected above their heads with a map of disability rates across the U.S. Greiman speaks into a microphone.

From left to right, Bonnie Kelly, Bronwyn Troutman, Lillie Greiman, and Andrew Myers presenting as part of DiverseU 2018.

Rural Institute researchers and RTC:Rural project directors Lillie Greiman and Andrew Myers, along with community partners Bronwyn Troutman, Community Living Specialist, and Bonnie Kelly, Peer Advocate, from Summit Independent Living Center in Missoula co-presented a panel at the University of Montana as part of the DiverseU symposium. Their presentation was titled “Disability and the Socio-Political Environment.”

DiverseU is the University of Montana’s annual campus-wide diversity symposium. It is open to university students, staff, and community members, and features presentations, art exhibits, and guided discussions over the course of two days. DiverseU seeks to, “…explore the complexities of human experience, promote understanding, and create community through the practice of civil discourse,” according to the DiverseU website page.

Greiman, Myers, Troutman, and Kelly’s presentation shared information about the laws and policies that have helped to support community living for people with disabilities. These include the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Housing Act (also see Fair Housing—It’s Your Right on the Department of Housing and Urban Development website), the Olmsted Decision, and Medicaid waivers.

Bonnie Kelly speaks into a microphone. She is a wheelchair user.

Bonnie Kelly sharing her personal experiences during the DiverseU 2018 presentation.

Despite these laws and policies, considerable barriers remain for people with disabilities who wish to live in the community, especially due to a lack of affordable and accessible housing. Kelly shared her personal story about how her disability required her to modify her housing situation. She discussed the challenges and barriers, as well as the resources available to help her, including Medicaid waivers. Her story served to illustrate the importance of accessible housing resources and access to services for people with disabilities.

For their part of the presentation, Greiman and Myers discussed how RTC:Rural research continues to explore accessible housing issues as well as barriers to services for people with disabilities in rural areas. Their research is working to help find solutions to some of those issues and barriers. Kelly’s experiences helped highlight findings from their research on housing usability and access to Centers for Independent Living.

“I think it is really powerful to hear about the lived experiences of people with disabilities in the community,” said Greiman, “and I am so thankful that Bonnie was willing to take the time and discuss how community supports through Medicaid have helped her stay out of a nursing home.”

To learn more about RTC:Rural research that supports people with disabilities in community living, see: