November 15, 2016

New project will study “Effort Capacity and Choice”

A woman in a wheelchair with a shopping basket in her lap reaches up for a box on a shelf.The RTC: Rural at the University of Montana’s Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities (RIIC) is pleased to announce a new collaborative project with the Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) and the New Directions Wellness Center at the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science at the University of Montana. Our project, funded by a three-year, $600,000 grant from NIDILRR, will focus on understanding how personal effort influences community participation.

Previous research by the RIIC has shown that for those with mobility impairments, bathing required the largest expenditure of daily energy. Each person has a finite amount of energy to expend in a single day, and if a disproportionately large amount of that energy is required for any one activity, such as bathing, less energy remains for other activities, such as grocery shopping or socializing with friends. “The things we do are shaped by time and money, but also by the amount of energy we have,” says Andrew Myers, RTC: Rural Project Director.This image shows an accessible shower, with grab bars and a no step shower.

“We know that people living with disabilities exert far greater energy to complete daily bathing and dressing than their non-disabled counterparts,” says Mindy Renfro, the Clinical Coordinator of the Montana Adaptive Equipment Program for MonTECH at the RIIC. “Decrease in physical activity and social interaction is known to increase risk of chronic diseases, obesity and depression with poorer quality of life and overall higher health care utilization and costs.”

This current project will focus on two different interventions to see how each affects energy exertion and what impacts that may have on community participation for those with mobility impairments. In the first intervention, participants will receive an environmental modification to their bathroom, such as grab bars, a removable shower head, or a raised toilet seat. For the second intervention, participants will receive physical therapy in order to increase their physical capacity and their ability to navigate their current bathroom. Says Renfro, “We hope to demonstrate that the judicious use of individually selected adaptive equipment will result in lower energy cost for routine activities of daily living with greater engagement in enjoyable physical activity and community inclusion.”

“People often say they ‘can’t’ do something. ‘I can’t’ can mean lots of things,” says Bryce Ward, the Associate Director of the BBER. “It could mean ‘I don’t want too’ or ‘I can’t afford it,’ but often ‘I can’t’ means that I lack the ability to muster the effort or energy required to do something. This collaboration offers a wonderful opportunity to gain deeper insight into how insufficient effort capacity affects people’s lives.”

Two people are moving towards a balloon arch in the distance. One is in a wheelchair, the other is a little person.


For more information, visit:

  • Effort Capacity and Choice Project Page
  • Rural Institute
  • Bureau of Business and Economic Research: The Bureau of Business and Economic Research is a research department within the School of Business Administration at the University of Montana, Missoula. They produce a variety of economic and industry data including annual economic forecasts for the United States as well as Montana, its industries, and counties.
  • New Directions Wellness Center at the UM School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science: New Directions is a non-profit wellness center that offers physical therapy and supervised exercise using accessible equipment for upper and lower body strengthening and cardiovascular conditioning. New Directions is part of the University of Montana Physical Therapy Clinic.