This blog post is adapted from an article written by Allison Crist, University of Kansas
All people deserve the chance to thrive in a community — but for people with disabilities, there are often obstacles to participating.
A new special issue of the Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community explores various aspects of this topic. Dr. Craig Ravesloot at the University of Montana Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities (RTC:Rural) and two researchers at the University of Kansas Research and Training Center on Independent Living (RTC/IL) contributed to the thematic issue, “People with Disabilities and Community Participation.”
According to Glen White, one of the issue’s two guest editors and RTC/IL director, many people with disabilities remain isolated in their communities, despite advances in independent living (which focuses on supports that enable people to live in the community) and deinstitutionalization (which moves people from nursing homes to living in the community).
White said the five studies included in this issue focus on improving the lives of people with existing disabilities and those who are aging into disability. “As researchers in the disability field continue to investigate interventions that reduce barriers and create more opportunities to fully participate, they will positively affect many of the more than 57 million Americans with disabilities,” White said.
Jean Ann Summers, the other guest editor and RTC/IL research director, said the special issue examines community participation from multiple angles.
“We present research that focuses on the characteristics of individuals, like secondary health conditions, that create problems with how people live in a community,” Summers said. “Other articles examine external factors that affect how people with disabilities are able to participate in their communities.”
For example, one study about accessible parking illustrates the way environmental changes can improve the ability of people with disabilities to get out and about. “A community needs to be welcoming and accessible,” Summers said. “This, combined with supportive programs, helps empower people. You need both.”
According to contributor Craig Ravesloot, director of RTC:Rural at the University of Montana, community participation is not only something people crave, but a benefit to their health.
“For people with disabilities, the community environment often dictates their participation. Where facilities are inaccessible, people with disabilities participate less, and less participation is not good for one’s health,” Ravesloot said. “This journal highlights the fact that we must address community issues to prevent many health problems.”
Ravesloot added that the research in this issue is meaningful for all people. “Because disability is part of the normal human experience across the lifespan, we need to understand how society, including medical professionals, social service agencies, families and friends, can best provide support that facilitates full participation of all citizens,” he said.
One of the articles focuses on the role of centers for independent living (CILs), which are non-residential resource centers that provide services and training to people with disabilities.
“CILs empower and include people,” said Summers. “The research on CILs that is included here looks not only at the services that need to be delivered, but the way they’re delivered, too, for maximum effectiveness.”
Now that the journal is published, Ravesloot wants it to get people — particularly researchers — talking.
“These articles provide important starting points for areas of research that have not received much systematic attention by researchers,” Ravesloot said. “I hope this journal issue creates interest and new research questions.”
Here is a complete list of the articles in the special issue:
- “The effects of contingency contracts and performance feedback on completing data entries to self-monitor community participation of people with physical disabilities: An ecological momentary study” – Chiaki Gonda-Kotani and Glen W. White
- “A comparative analysis of Center for Independent Living staff and board of directors regarding CIL services and consumer participation” – Craig Ravesloot, Glen W. White, Chiaki Gonda-Kotani, and Kelsey Shinnick
- “Preventing health problems that disrupt community living: A health promotion needs assessment” – Dorothy E. Nary and Jean Ann Summers
- “Toward a successful vocational rehabilitation in adults with disabilities: Does residential arrangement matter?” – F.L. Fredrik G. Langi, Ashmeet Oberoi, and Fabrico E. Balcazar
- “Analyzing the effects of different signs to increase the availability of designated van-accessible parking spaces” – E Zhang and Glen W. White