Tag Archives: rural

New Rural Disability Resource Library website launched!

logo of the rural disability resource library websiteRTC:Rural just launched a new website, the Rural Disability Resource Library. The website was created to be an easily accessible and searchable set of resources for people with disabilities who live in rural areas. It contains fact sheets, how-to guides, info for conducting workshops, web resources, and much more.

Who is it intended for?

Many different people will find the resources on this website useful. There are resources for people with different types of disabilities and their family members. Some resources are also designed for people who serve those with disabilities, such as policy makers and care givers. The resources listed here have been designed for, or are useful for, those who live in rural areas but could also be useful for people living in more urban areas.

Why a rural resource library?

Rural towns are different than cities and the people who live there sometimes have different needs. There are lots of resources available online for people with disabilities, but it can be difficult to sort through them and find ones that are most useful. Also, very few resources exist that have been designed with rural communities in mind. This website helps make the job of finding relevant resources easier for people who live in rural areas, and those who serve them.

Free rural transportation toolkit now available from APRIL and RTC:Rural

cover of the document "toolkit for operating a rural transportation voucher program"The Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) and the RTC:Rural are excited to announce that an updated version of the Toolkit for Operating a Rural Transportation Voucher Program is now available to download for FREE. The Toolkit, used to help solve problems in areas that lack transportation options, is available in PDF and text-only versions. Individualized training and technical assistance is available from APRIL for a fee. Contact Billy Altom, Executive director of APRIL, at bwaltom@sbcglobal.net for more information.

Click here to download the toolkit.

What is the Toolkit for Operating a Rural Transportation Voucher Program?

The Toolkit for Operating a Rural Transportation Voucher Program provides a model that describes how to bring together community members and resources to develop and operate a transportation system for people with disabilities in rural areas.

In this model, eligible riders receive a voucher checkbook with an allocation of miles from a sponsoring agency. The agency negotiates with public and private transportation providers to accept the voucher checks as payment for rides, and can help riders organize potential volunteer drivers. Community members may volunteer to become drivers, and will be reimbursed up to the federal maximum rate for mileage reimbursement. In addition, other agencies that provide transportation, such as a council on aging or a developmental disability provider, can also be part of the voucher system. As long as there is room, riders from different sponsoring agencies can ride in the same vehicles. Continue reading

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

Start your week off right with #MapMonday, our new “Disability in America” map series

Portion of a map showing disability rates in every county in the United StatesRTC:Rural is excited to announce the launch of “Disability in America,” a new series of maps produced from our research. Every Monday, a new map will be revealed – you may follow and share this series on social media with the #MapMonday hashtag via the RTC:Rural Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Some of the maps can be previewed on the RTC:Rural website here: Disability in American Map Series.

“Place matters. To understand rural America, you have to see rural America. These maps help build a sense of place for those who can’t road trip across America to see the diversity of rural communities themselves,” said Dr. Craig Ravesloot, RTC:Rural Director.

The “Disability in America” maps are based on demographic data collected through the American Community Survey and cover disability rates, rates of particular types of disabilities, and other status of people with disabilities such as poverty and employment. They were created as part of our Geography and Rural Disability project and have implications for organizations and agencies working on disability topics nationwide.

“These maps show that disability in the Southeast is different from Northeast, which is different the Midwest and the West. The researchers at RTC:Rural work every day to understand the variety of rural places so that our solutions are effective across rural America,” said Andrew Myers, Research Associate. Continue reading

Our State of the Science seminar on rural VR well attended and informative

Over 120 individuals registered for our 2017 State of the Science event, “Effective Rural Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Job Development.” The live, participatory webinar was held June 22, 2017 and was attended by State Vocational Rehabilitation staff and administrators, researchers and job development providers from around the country. For those who missed or were unable to register for the live session, an archived recording of the webinar is now available.

The agenda featured a presentation on RTC:Rural employment research by Dr. Catherine Ipsen, RTC:Rural Director of Rural Employment Research followed by a panel discussion. Panelists included: Betsy Hopkins, Director of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation at the Maine Department of Labor; Mimi Schafer, Rehabilitation Area Manager for Minnesota Vocational Rehabilitation Services; Jessica Adams, Program Manager for Community Connections, Inc.; Joe Xavier, Director of the California Department of Rehabilitation; and Dr. Susan Foley, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Panelist bios can be viewed here: State of the Science webinar features a panel of experts from the VR field.

Dr. Catherine Ipsen headshot

Dr. Catherine Ipsen, Rural Institute Associate Director and RTC:Rural Employment Project Director

To begin the webinar, Dr. Ipsen shared RTC:Rural demographic research by Research Associates Lillie Greiman and Andrew Myers regarding rural disparities. Using American Community Survey data, Greiman and Myers examined differences in rates of poverty, employment, and those out of the labor force for people with and without disabilities in rural and urban areas.

Dr. Ipsen then presented work on two RTC:Rural employment research projects: Premature Exit from VR Services and Rural Contracted Services. “Access to timely job development services is vital to keeping people engaged in the VR program,” said Dr. Ipsen. “Many providers, however, are reluctant to serve rural areas due to barriers imposed by distance, economic opportunity, and VR payment and referral models.” Continue reading

RTC:Rural presents geography research on disability and employment rates at AAG meeting

Conference presentation showing speakers and slide behind with map of the USA

RTC:Rural Researcher Andrew Myers presenting at the American Association of Geographers 2017 annual meeting in Boston, MA. Photo Credit: Sandy Wong.

RTC:Rural’s presentation at the 2017 American Association of Geographers annual meeting generated enthusiastic conversation about the values and challenges of using big data to address rural issues.  Andrew Myers, Research Associate at RTC: Rural, recently returned from this conference, held in Boston, MA. There, he presented RTC:Rural research on current disability patterns in rural America with a focus on employment rates. His presentation, titled “Current Disability Patterns in Rural America,” was part of the Geographies of Disability 1: Mapping and Accessibility session. Coauthors include RTC:Rural Research Associate Lillie Greiman and University of Montana graduate student Kourtney Johnson.

The AAG’s Disability Specialty Group brought international researchers together to share the latest geographical research about disability. Myers is a board member of the AAG Disability Specialty Group, and helped organize the “Geographies of Disability” track at the conference.

Using data from the American Community Survey, Myers, Greiman, and Johnson found that the national disability rate in the United States is 12.5%. When they looked at the county level, they found that disability rates were higher in rural counties, at 17.7%, than in urban ones, with rates of only 11.8%.

Overall, employment rates for people with disabilities are lower in rural areas, which follows the national trend of lower employment rates in rural areas. However, said Myers, “It would be misleading to say that rates of employment [for people with disabilities] always go down as you get more rural. In fact, in some rural communities employment rates of people with disabilities are higher than the national average of 33%.”

Myers, Greiman, and Johnson have a number of hypotheses they are investigating, and are currently writing up their findings for publication. Continue reading

How RTC:Rural works to address the “Civic Desert” for rural youth

Here at RTC:Rural, we know from working with our stakeholders that there are many unique aspects of living in a rural environment – both challenges and opportunities. Our Center provides technical assistance to people with disabilities and their service providers to address these challenges.

A recent article in The Conversation’s series on rural America, by researchers at Tufts University, recently coined a new term: the “Civic Desert.” They use Civic Desert to refer to “places characterized by a dearth of opportunities for civic and political learning and engagement, and without institutions that typically provide opportunities like youth programming, culture and arts organizations and religious congregations.” Click here to read their analysis of the effects of such a lack of access to civic opportunities on youth voting, titled “Study: 60 percent of rural millennials lack access to a political life.”

The challenge of access to civic opportunity for rural youth with disabilities is an issue that crosses boundaries of political parties and values. RTC:Rural and our partners  are currently working to address this issue in several ways.

Youth put their arms around each other as part of a group activity

Youth activity at APRIL 2016 conference

APRIL Youth Advocacy Committee – We provide technical assistance to the new Youth Advocacy Committee of the Associate of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL). This committee, an outgrowth of the vibrant youth activities at the annual APRIL conference, brings together rural youth from across the country to prioritize and address issues associated with living with a disability in rural America. The committee has regular meetings – for more information contact APRIL Youth Programs Coordinator Sierra Royster. Continue reading

Six charts that illustrate the divide between rural and urban America

RTC:Rural is proud that our researchers were invited to contribute to this article, which was published in The Conversation on March 17, 2017, and subsequently on PBS News, US News & World Report, and Salon.


Authors: Brian Thiede, Pennsylvania State University; Lillie Greiman, The University of Montana; Stephan Weiler, Colorado State University; Steven C. Beda, University of Oregon, and Tessa Conroy, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Editor’s note: We’ve all heard of the great divide between life in rural and urban America. But what are the factors that contribute to these differences? We asked sociologists, economists, geographers and historians to describe the divide from different angles. The data paint a richer and sometimes surprising picture of the U.S. today. The Conversation

1. Poverty is higher in rural areas

Discussions of poverty in the United States often mistakenly focus on urban areas. While urban poverty is a unique challenge, rates of poverty have historically been higher in rural than urban areas. In fact, levels of rural poverty were often double those in urban areas throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

While these rural-urban gaps have diminished markedly, substantial differences persist. In 2015, 16.7 percent of the rural population was poor, compared with 13.0 percent of the urban population overall – and 10.8 percent among those living in suburban areas outside of principal cities.

Continue reading

New tool available to access disability data

Finding big data about rural America is challenging. Finding big data about disability in rural America can seem impossible. Meanwhile, access to current information about disability in rural areas is important as these areas consistently experience higher disability rates than their urban counterparts.

Disability Counts logoThe Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities (RTC:Rural) recently re-launched the Disability Counts Data Finder, an online tool that allows users to easily access disability data for every county in the United States and Puerto Rico. Using a simple interface, users select their state and counties of interest, and generate a table with population estimates, disability rates, margins of error, and rural/urban classifications.

Disability Counts uses the most recent 5-year American Community Survey data and the 2015 Office of Management and Budget Metropolitan-Micropolitan Statistical Areas delineation files. These datasets were specifically chosen so that Disability Counts could provide insight into the county’s rural status alongside the disability rate, clearly showing the correlation between disability rates and rural areas. We have found that this information is particularly sought after by advocates and policymakers.

Map of disability rates by county

Disability rates by county across the United States – rural counties consistently show higher disability rates than their urban counterparts.

Continue reading

RTC:Rural researchers featured in The Conversation article highlighting rural/urban divide

Headshots of the RTC:Rural researchers

Lillie Greiman, Andrew Myers and Christiane von Reichert

We are proud that the feature article of today’s issue of The Conversation newsletter includes the work of RTC:Rural’s geography project.

Lillie Greiman, M.A., and Andrew Myers, M.A., RTC:Rural Research Associates, with Christiane von Reichert, Ph.D., Professor of Geography at the University of Montana, contributed to an article about the rural/urban divide that was recently published on The Conversation.

Titled “Six charts that illustrate the divide between rural and urban America,” the article is a collaboration among the UM researchers and sociologists, economists, and historians at universities around the country. The article explores factors that contribute to the differences between life in rural and urban areas.

Greiman, Myers, and von Reichert contributed the section about disability rates across the country, based on their previous research and analysis of the most recent American Community Survey data.

The Conversation is an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community. It is a foundation-supported news source with a mission to help professors get high-quality research into the public sphere.