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.
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