December 6, 2018

Facilitators share rural barriers to participation in Living & Working Well programs in Peer-to-Peer Series call

A circle of clip art people surrounds the Living and Working Well with a Disability logo, Peer-to-Peer Series written underneath.Residents in rural areas can face many challenges and barriers to accessing services and programs, such as those offered by Centers for Independent Living (CILs). For many Centers that are located in or that serve rural communities, these barriers can mean low participation, which in turn can make it difficult to continue offering certain programs beyond core services. On the most recent Living and Working Well Facilitator Peer-to-Peer call, program facilitators discussed barriers to participation in their workshops such as fewer (or no) transportation options, competition for time, insufficient infrastructure, lack of supporting resources, and fewer outreach and recruitment opportunities.

Said one participant: “Our center covers 17 counties. The towns are very spread out and to be able to get somebody from a different town to come to one of my classes is very difficult. I think a lot of people would like to try them. I have yet to do a class outside of our county, hoping that maybe in the future I can do that.”

“We serve a metropolitan and a rural area and the rural challenge is transportation,” shared another participant. “We do provide transportation for the class, however, we have a boundary. So in order to get the people from the rural areas to where the classes are, that’s been a big challenge. We were talking about having the class in some of the rural offices but the rural offices are very tiny so then we have to start looking for community centers in other areas to have the class in.”

To trouble-shoot these barriers to participation, many LWD and WWD facilitators get creative about their outreach efforts in order to highlight the benefits of programs like Living Well. “Something that has worked well is a lot of word of mouth from the previous graduates of the course. It’s word of mouth and peer support. Spreading the word,” shared one participant.

Four people smile at the camera. One is holding a small dog.

Picture from Healthy Community Living (www.healthycommunityliving.com).

“We have actually done videos on Facebook, where I have interviewed someone who has taken the class and that has agreed to be on social media with us. That has been effective for us. So many people in the rural communities are connected through social media because they are so far out and away from a lot of things going on,” said another participant.

Facilitators also network with other community organizations in order to maximize their reach.

“Once a month all of the different providers in the area have a meeting and so I usually always talk to them about a class or anything that we’re offering and then they can offer it to the people they work with. I’ve found that advantageous,” shared one participant.

Said another facilitator, “We are active on social media with other CILs, other community partners, other agencies where we are swapping information.”

Even though there are many challenges to implementing and sustaining important programs in rural areas, LWD and WWD facilitators rise to the occasion and continue to advocate and problem-solve.

“LWD and WWD facilitators always blow me away with their creativity, persistence, and passion,” said Maggie Lawrence, RTC:Rural Training Associate and moderator of the Peer-to-Peer Series calls. “Their belief in the program is what energizes the participants and makes it successful.”

To learn more about what facilitators shared in the call, check out the “FAQ: Facilitator-Answered Questions” handout. View or download a PDF and text-only version of the document by following the links below:

Visit the Facilitator Tips page on the Living and Working Well with a Disability website to access FAQs from previous calls.

The Living Well and Working Well with a Disability programs are evidence-based, peer-led health promotion workshops provided by organizations that serve people with disabilities. RTC:Rural provides training and certification for Centers for Independent Living (CILs) and other organizations to conduct the workshops. Both programs are based on the Independent Living philosophy, which recognizes that individual choice and self-determination are essential components of living independently in the community.

Since Living Well began in 1995 and Working Well in 2003, over 1,300 facilitators have been trained in 47 states, in turn serving over 10,000 adults with disabilities. To learn more about the development of Living and Working Well, visit the RTC:Rural website project pages here:

Interested in becoming a Living or Working Well with a Disability facilitator or provider? Visit the Living & Working Well with a Disability website or email livingwell@ruralinstitute.umt.edu for more information, resources, or to be added to the Living and Working Well listserv.