Tag Archives: independent living

Figuring out how young adults with disabilities participate in rural community events

RTC:Rural’s research on accessible community events has a new focus. Dr. Rayna Sage, RTC:Rural Research Associate, is leading our Participation in Rural Events among Young Adults with Disabilities research project. The study aims to understand how young adults with disabilities in rural communities participate in community events, and how their community participation can enrich their lives and contribute to their communities in meaningful ways.

Rayna Sage at a rodeo with mountains in the background

RTC:Rural Research Associate Rayna Sage, Ph.D., at the Pioneer Days Rodeo in Ronan, MT where she was conducting in-the-moment interviews for this project

The accessibility of rural community events is directly tied to participation, and community participation can be tied to the accumulation of social capital. “Social capital is a tradeable resource that exists in a relationship. If you have social capital you can use it to gain other kinds of capital,” said Sage. “It provides opportunities to interact with other people who may have access to resources that you don’t have access to.”

These other kinds of capital could include things like favors, experiences, or a job. Another way to think of it could be as “cashing in” on a friendship or social connection in order to secure some sort of benefit, such as a job at a family friend’s store, or access to a behind-the-scenes space at a public event for someone who needs a place to sit in the shade and rest.

Having social capital could be especially important in rural communities, and could help overcome some of the limitations faced by young adults with disabilities as they transition into adulthood. “It’s a vulnerable period for most people, the transition after high school into whatever they’re going into, but for young adults with disabilities it’s even more critical for them to engage in meaningful activities that are going to enhance their lives,” said Sage.

Sage’s previous work has pointed to how the inequality gap between poor/working class and middle/upper class young adults grows during the period of transition into adulthood, even if they go to college. Now, in this new study, she hopes to see if the social capital in rural communities can help young adults with disabilities compensate for some of the other inequalities and challenges they may be facing. Continue reading

Living Well with a Disability Program featured in national webinar on Building Inclusive Programs

On July 18, 2017, staff from RTC:Rural presented at the webinar “Building Inclusive Programs to Serve Adults with Disabilities,” hosted by the National Council on Aging Center for Healthy Aging. The webinar was well attended, with 320 participants from around the country. The webinar was recorded; click here to view the video or download presentation slides.

RTC:Rural Knowledge Translation Director Tracy Boehm Barrett and Montana Disability and Health Program Director Meg Ann Traci provided an overview of our successful Living Well with a Disability (LWD) program including its research and development history, and how it has been expanded and sustained over the years, which has been largely influenced by consumer and service provider input.

A group of seven people, three sitting in wheelchairs, at a workshop outside around a tableLWD is an evidence-based, peer-led health promotion and self-management program for adults with disabilities, recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  It focuses on developing a healthy and balanced lifestyle as a vehicle to reach individual quality-of-life goals.

To date, our program has trained 1,218 Living Well with a Disability workshop facilitators, representing nearly 300 community agencies in 46 states.  Nearly 10,000 individuals with disabilities have been served through the Living Well with a Disability program.

In addition to the presentation on the development, implementation, and successes of LWD, the webinar featured a third presenter, Karl Cooper, Esq. of the American Association on Health and Disability. Mr. Cooper provided an overview of the health and disability landscape in the United States. Helpful resources and strategies for ensuring evidence-based programs are accessible for all were also featured.

“We were very pleased to be invited to participate in this webinar and share its historical research and development,” says Tracy Boehm Barrett. “Living Well has been a launch pad program to engage people with disabilities in self-management of their health in a way that recognizes the unique barriers and secondary health conditions that people with disabilities experience.  In the spirit of building inclusive communities, providing the tools and resources for managing one’s health and well-being is essential to ensuring community participation by all. We want to thank the Center for Health Aging for inviting us to present!” Continue reading

Using Improv to Teach Advocacy: RTC:Rural Advocacy Skill Building Toolkit now available

Advocacy Toolkit Facilitator Guide coverRTC:Rural is excited to release the Advocacy Skill Building Toolkit, a new set of resources for Centers for Independent Living (CILs) and others to facilitate workshops to develop the advocacy skills of emerging Independent Living leaders and youth with disabilities.

The Toolkit is a collaboration between BASE, an affiliate of Summit Independent Living in Missoula, MT, the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL), and RTC:Rural staff, and was developed in response to the needs and interests of CILs and other stakeholders.

The Toolkit is available free of charge on the RTC:Rural website.

“We are so excited that we can help get this toolkit in the hands of CILs and others,” said Mary Olson, Director of Training and Technical Assistance for APRIL. “The Independent Living network has been craving tools that can be used with young adults with disabilities. Every time I talk with a CIL, they ask for exactly what this toolkit is offering. With more and more mandates for Independent Living without more funding, I see this tool being used in almost every CIL in the country as a much needed resource.” Continue reading

University of Montana and University of Kansas disability researchers contribute to special journal issue

This blog post is adapted from an article written by Allison Crist, University of Kansas

people talking at a farmer's market, including a person using a wheelchairAll 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.” Continue reading

A Tribute to Tom Seekins

This tribute to RTC:Rural Co-Director Dr. Tom Seekins was originally published in the December 2016 issue of the Montana Psychologist, the newsletter of the Montana Psychological Association.  It is reproduced here with their kind permission. 


Dr. Tom Seekins(1)The following is a tribute to Dr. Tom Seekins, who is retiring from the University of Montana at the end of the academic year. Dr. Seekins, a Professor of Psychology, has served as the Director of the Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities at the University of Montana since 1993. His research involves rural policy, issues surrounding rural health and disability, and disability within Native American tribes and reservations, among other topics. He is a past recipient of the Earl Walden Award for Outstanding Achievement in Rural Advocacy in 2001, the Allan Myers award from the Disability Forum of the American Public Health Association in 2006, and the Americans with Disability Act Award from the University of Montana in 2014.

Like so many of the fine faculty in the Montana University System, Tom’s entire corpus of professional work is impossible to capture within the scope of this newsletter. Following, Dr. Seekins speaks of his early experiences working with people with disabilities in Montana and how these early experiences dictated Dr. Seekins’ educational and career path, which subsequently affected the quality and even course of residential treatment for individuals with disabilities in Montana and beyond. It is followed by reflections from two colleagues who have worked with Tom the longest at the University of Montana: Dr. Meg Traci and Dr. Craig Ravesloot.

—Greg R. Machek, Ph.D. | Academic/Scientific Coordinator, Montana Psychological Association


Tom Seekins, Ph.D.Tom Seekins, Ph.D.

Professor of Psychology, Director of the Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities at the University of Montana

As I recall, I gave my first professional presentation at the Montana Psychological Association meeting held in Billings about 1975. I had graduated from the University of Montana (UM) with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 1973. I had applied to graduate school but (fortunately) was not accepted. Subsequent events proved that to be one of my best setbacks.

Untethered from school and with no direction, I found myself looking for a job. The Sunday Missoulian provided the solution. I applied for a job as a Behavior Modification Therapist at the State institution for the “mentally retarded” in Boulder, Montana. The advertisement said that they were looking for people with a degree in psychology or a related field. I hadn’t been exposed to behavior modification as an undergraduate but still it seemed like there might be a fit. Continue reading