Tag Archives: University of Montana

Home Usability Program works to address immediate housing needs for people with disabilities

Wheelchair user trying to maneuver within confined kitchen space.

For people with disabilities, usability issues can be both within and outside of the home.

The need for accessible housing far exceeds the availability. While there are disability advocacy groups working to make changes in housing policies at the national level, those changes don’t happen overnight. In the next few decades, the need for affordable, accessible housing is only going to increase as the American population ages. In rural areas, where people are already more likely to be unemployed, living in poverty, elderly, and have a disability, this housing need will be especially severe.

“People can’t always move into accessible, affordable housing, or at least not right away,” says Lillie Greiman, RTC:Rural Research Associate. “So we’re asking, ‘What can we do to help those people right now?’”

To address immediate housing issues for people with disabilities, RTC:Rural researchers are working with partners at the University of Kansas on the Home Usability Program. The Home Usability Program helps people with disabilities to assess usability issues with their homes, and connects them with the resources they need to make changes.

Closeup of a person's hand on a lever-style door handle

An example of an improved usability issue: replacing round door knobs with easier-to-use lever door handles. Picture from www.HealthyCommunityLiving.com.

The Home Usability Program is part of the Research and Training Center on Promoting Interventions for Community Living (RTC/PICL), a collaboration between researchers at the University of Kanas and the University of Montana. Dr. Craig Ravesloot, RTC:Rural director, co-directs the center with Dr. Glen White at the University of Kansas. Greiman is the Project Director of the Home Usability Program.

Currently, researchers are in the first phase of the Home Usability Program, says Greiman. The program is partnering with two Centers for Independent Living, one in Montana and one in Kansas, to work with individuals to make usability improvements to their homes. Participants must be over 21, have a physical disability, and live in the community.

First, the team works with the individual to identify usability issues within their homes. Then, the researchers work with the local CILs to develop a network of local resources that can help address those issues. The focus of the program is to identify smaller-scale improvements that can be made quickly and relatively inexpensively—for example, installing new faucet handles on the sink for easier use, or grab bars in the bathtub.

Ultimately, the Home Usability Program will consist of two parts: a screening tool for people with disabilities to use to identify usability issues in their homes, which includes recommendations on how to solve some common issues; and a guide for CILs to develop their own networks of local resources to help consumers make these usability changes.

“The Home Usability Program is about giving you control over your home environment, making it easier and safer to use your home,” said Greiman. “If people have usable homes, they can live independently and participate in their communities.”

A drawing of two cartoon houses.

The Home Usability Program works with Centers for Independent Living to help people with disabilities make improvements to their homes.

To learn more about the RTC/PICL and the Home Usability Program, check out:

Research & Training Center on Promoting Interventions for Community Living

Home Usability for People with Disabilities

Success Story: Home Usability for People with Disabilities

RTC:Rural Researcher Offers Graduate Seminar on Rural Disability and Health

Rayna Sage talking into a microphone

Dr. Rayna Sage, RTC:Rural Research Associate, presenting at the 2017 APRIL conference in Spokane, Washington.

RTC:Rural Research Associate Dr. Rayna Sage, who is also an adjunct instructor in the Sociology department at the University of Montana, is offering a graduate-level seminar for the Spring 2018 semester called “Special Topics in Rural Disability and Health.” In the seminar, students will produce rapid literature reviews on topics of interest to the RTC:Rural.

“The first few weeks we’ll be getting a good foothold in disability literature,” said Dr. Sage. “I want to focus on how interdisciplinary the field is.” Students will learn about disability as an identity and as a product of the environment. They’ll also learn the history of disability rights and the Independent Living Movement, as well as how disability functions in the health care system. There will be an emphasis on experiences in rural America.

The main course objectives are to produce rapid literature reviews on topics that are related to RTC:Rural research interests. After choosing a topic, students will research the existing literature on that topic, and produce reviews of these papers. They will work closely with RTC:Rural Knowledge Translation staff to turn their literature reviews into materials that can be used by service providers, policymakers, advocates, and other researchers. These materials will be published on the RTC:Rural website.

Dr. Sage is excited for students to learn about how disability intersects with other social statuses like race, gender, and class from interdisciplinary perspectives including sociology, geography, public health, psychology, and economics while also assisting students in building important writing skills they can take into their academic and professional lives.

For more information, check out the course description flier:

SOCI 595: Special Topics in Rural Disability and Health