Tag Archives: Lauren Smith

New research brief: Social isolation and loneliness during COVID-19

Comparing pre- and post- ‘stay-at-home’ orders

First page of America at a glance: social isolation and loneliness during the first wave of COVID-19

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.

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New research brief: COVID-19 and disability in rural areas

Rural/urban differences in trust in sources and preventative practices

first page of America at a glance: COVID-19 and disability in rural areas research brief.

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.

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New toolkit available to help make rural community events accessible for all

Event accessibility, online and off

cartoon drawing of stick figure with curly brown hair sits at desk with laptop

With so many community events going online, it’s still important to remember to make sure they are accessible. While our newest toolkit was designed for use at both indoor and outdoor rural community events, there are many considerations that also apply to online events as well. The spirit of community inclusion, support and connection carries on until once again it is safe for us to gather in person at community events.


Looking for ways to help make community events more accessible? Check out RTC:Rural’s newest toolkit, the Community Assessment for Accessible Rural Events (or CAARE) Toolkit. The toolkit was created to help community members make sure their rural community events are accessible and inclusive. It includes resources such as checklists of accessibility issues and tools that help advocates conduct surveys and collect feedback from event attendees. The toolkit also contains materials with step-by-step instructions on how to analyze that feedback so it can be shared with event organizers.

cartoon drawing of person with prosthetic leg stands holding a pencil and checklist

 “Disability advocates and event organizers can use this toolkit to work together to plan for accessibility, identifying realistic accessibility goals and using a simple survey tool at the event to learn how people experience accessibility,” said Dr. Rayna Sage, RTC:Rural Project Director.

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New research brief: How do adults with travel-limiting disabilities get around?

Transportation is still a barrier

Cover/first page of research brief: America at a glance- how do working-age adults with travel-limiting disabilities get around?

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.

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New fact sheet: How will the COVID-19 recession impact people with disabilities in rural America?

Financial health, employment, and COVID-19

front page of fact sheet: how will the COVID-19 recession impact people with disabilities in rural America?

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.

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RTC:Rural shares tribal VR self-employment toolkit in New Orleans

A mural painted on the side of a building. See caption for full text description.
A colorful mural painted on the side of a building in New Orleans. The mural says, “Greetings from NOLA.” The letters are filled with images of New Orleans culture including: people playing music, a Mardi Gras mask, a church, the city skyline, a crayfish boil, the Superdome and the fleur-de-lis logo of the New Orleans Saints football team.

At the beginning of December, RTC:Rural was in sunny New Orleans, Louisiana for the Consortia of Administrators for Native American Rehabilitation (CANAR) 2019 Annual Conference. RTC:Rural researchers Dr. Catherine Ipsen, Andrew Myers, and Lauren Smith met with advisor partners and presented on the Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Self-Employment Toolkit.

“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.”

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RTC:Rural fact sheet explores insurance coverage rates before and after ACA and Medicaid expansion

Screenshot of the first page of the ACA and Medicaid Expansion Associated with Increased Insurance Coverage for Rural Americans with Disabilities fact sheet.

The passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and adoption of Medicaid expansion was associated with substantial increases in insurance coverage across the United States (see Changes in coverage and access, MACPAC 2019). However, RTC:Rural researchers wanted to know how ACA policy changes and Medicaid expansion impacted people with disabilities, particularly those who live in rural areas.

To explore this question, RTC:Rural researchers analyzed microdata from the 2008-2013 American Community Survey from IPUMS-USA. Using these data, they were able to compare how insurance coverage has changed over time for people with and without disabilities in rural and urban places, and in expansion and non-expansion states.

Graphic sharing stats from analysis, which are in previous paragraphs.
[text description] The number of rural people with disabilities with health insurance in expansion states increased by 10.7%. The number of rural people with disabilities with health insurance in non-expansion states increased by 5.3%. Difference = 5.4%.
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Using IPCD to create a tribal translation of the VR Self-Employment Guide

Screenshot of the Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation Self-Employment Toolkit homepage
Screenshot of the Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation Self-Employment Toolkit home page.

Last week, RTC:Rural was in Connecticut for the Consortia of Administrators for Native American Rehabilitation (CANAR) 2019 mid-year conference held in Mashantucket, CT. RTC:Rural Director Dr. Catherine Ipsen, Research Associate Dr. Meredith Repke, and Knowledge Translation Associate Lauren Smith met with advisor partners and presented the progress to date on the Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Self-Employment Toolkit.

CANAR meetings bring together representatives from tribal VR programs across the country two times each year. “The meetings provide an important opportunity to share our work and gather additional stakeholder input about efforts to translate our self-employment materials for tribal VR programs,” said Ipsen.  

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RTC:Rural shares Self-Employment Guide with Tribal VR

logo for Consortia of Administrators for Native American Rehabilitaiton, Inc. A bald eagle with the international symbol for disability in front of a background patterend with Native American designs. Dr. Catherine Ipsen, RTC:Rural Director of Employment Research, and Lauren Smith, Knowledge Translation Associate, recently presented at the Consortia of Administrators for Native American Rehabilitation (CANAR) 2018 Mid-Year conference held in Prior Lake, Minnesota. In their presentation, “Expanding Counselor and Consumer Capacity in Self-Employment,” Ipsen and Smith highlighted RTC:Rural’s Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Self-Employment Guide, developed as part of the Rural Self-Employment Opportunities research project. The presentation showcased the online guide, shared interactive materials, and explored strategies for using the website in the counseling process.

The VR Self-Employment Guide is a multi-media website created to help people with disabilities and vocational rehabilitation counselors better understand the self-employment process. Consumers and counselors can work from the same material to decide if self-employment is a good option, and if so, to develop a feasible business plan. The website is self-directed, and can be used by individuals on their own or with the guidance of a VR counselor or business development mentor. Continue reading

Knowledge Translation in Action: Making Research More Accessible

Closeup hands typing on a laptopTo translate: to take something written in one language and express it in another. Or, to change something into a new form. This is precisely what RTC:Rural’s Knowledge Translation team does.

Knowledge Translation is an important part of making sure RTC:Rural’s research is accessible. Accessibility doesn’t refer to only alternative formats, such as Braille or screen-reader friendly—it’s also about making sure the content is easily understood, relevant, and useful to the people who are reading, viewing, or listening to that information. RTC:Rural’s Knowledge Translation team works to make sure that all RTC:Rural research is in the best format for its intended audience, be they people with disabilities and their families, service providers, other researchers, or policy makers.

RTC:Rural uses Knowledge Translation throughout the entire research process, from the research design phase to disseminating the final results. One recent example of this is in the collaboration between Knowledge Translation and the Effort Capacity and Choice project team. The Effort Capacity and Choice project examines the relationship between personal effort and community participation. To do so, the project studies the impacts of two interventions. In the Home Project Intervention, researchers install adaptive bathing equipment in the participant’s bathroom, reducing the amount of effort it takes to bathe and use their bathroom. In the Exercise Project Intervention, participants receive physical therapy in order to increase their physical capacity. Continue reading