“It is a real honor to be recognized by such an esteemed group of researchers,” said Andrew Myers, RTC:Rural Project Director and lead author on the paper.
NARRTC presents the award annually to showcase the work of National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) grantees. Winners are announced during the awards ceremony at the annual NARRTC conference, which was held online this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The winning paper builds upon previous RTC:Rural research by examining how changes in self-reported disability status are related to changes in self-reported health status. (See “RTC:Rural researchers publish paper on health status and transitory disability” for a summary of the paper). It was published in the January 2020 issue of Social Science & Medicine, and was available online in October 2019.
People with disabilities are often the first to experience economic disruptions, and among the last to recover. Unemployment among people with disabilities spiked to 18.9% in April 2020 and declined to 12.5% in September. Both the initial increase and recent decrease in unemployment was primarily driven by changes in temporary unemployment (unemployed workers who expect to go back to their same job within six months). While temporary unemployment has gone down, permanent unemployment has risen since the recession began, and may indicate that for some, temporary unemployment is becoming permanent.
As the recession wears on and unemployment benefits begin to expire, long-term recovery to pre-pandemic levels may become elusive, yet again leaving people with disabilities behind.
COVID-19 has arrived in rural America. Indeed, the worst outbreaks in October 2020 were in counties with populations less than 50,0001. We knew it was coming2, and yet communities are unprepared to face the significant challenges of caring for COVID-19 patients.
Risks and impacts of COVID-19 are not distributed evenly. This is especially true for people with disabilities and rural residents who face significant challenges to accessing healthcare. For COVID-19, risk increases with advanced age (aged 65 and older), congregate living such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities, and for individuals with several health conditions including asthma, diabetes, blood disorders, serious heart conditions, severe obesity, and for those who are immunocompromised3. Many of these conditions are reported at higher rates among the population of people with disabilities, placing them at higher risk of COVID-19 related complications4.
Social isolation and loneliness are a public health concern because they are associated with poor mental and physical health outcomes and mortality. Social isolation is defined as have few, or no, social connections, and not participating in activities with others. Loneliness is defined as feeling unsatisfied about the amount of social engagement in one’s life.
Before the current pandemic, people with disabilities reported significantly higher rates of social isolation and loneliness than those without disabilities. Inaccessible events and buildings, limited accessible public transportation, social stigma, and lower rates of employment all contribute to these high rates. When restrictions are put in place to help protect people from COVID-19, what happens to these rates?
To learn more about how COVID-19 and public health responses such as stay-at-home orders may contribute to feelings of social isolation and loneliness among people with disabilities, RTC:Rural researchers compared data from two cross-sectional samples collected before and after the first wave of “stay-at-home” orders.
Rural/urban differences in trust in sources and preventative practices
Public health is shaped by community-level action. This is especially important during crises such as COVID-19, where widespread adoption of public health practices is necessary to manage community spread and prevent loss. Consistent information is important for fostering trust and adherence to recommended practices.
RTC:Rural’s newest research brief examines how rural people with disabilities use different types of transportation. These include being a driver, asking others for rides, special transportation services, reduced-fare taxis, and public transportation.
People with disabilities, especially in rural areas, still report transportation as a significant barrier to full inclusion and participation in community life, nearly 30 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. Understanding how people with disabilities get around is an important first step for improving transportation options.
Using data from the 2017 National Household Travel Survey, this research brief explores travel behaviors and characteristics of rural and urban people with disabilities.
While many Americans will suffer in the coming recession, people with disabilities in rural areas are especially vulnerable because they are less likely to have an emergency savings fund, have access to paid leave, or be able to work from home.
“Attending CANAR meetings allows us to meet face to face
with our advisors and reach a broader audience of tribal stakeholders,” said
Ipsen. “Together, we are developing a resource that is appropriate across
tribal vocational rehabilitation programs.”
RTC:Rural researchers Andrew Myers, Dr. Bryce Ward, Dr. Jennifer Wong, and Dr. Craig Ravesloot recently published a paper in the journal Social Science & Medicine titled “Health status changes with transitory disability over time.” Myers is a RTC:Rural Project Director, Dr. Bryce Ward is the RTC:Rural Statistician, and Dr. Ravesloot is RTC:Rural Research Director. Dr. Wong is a former RTC:Rural Research Associate and University of Washington research fellow.