Category Archives: News

RTC:Rural paper on health status and disability receives NARRTC Best Paper Award

RTC:Rural researchers Andrew Myers, Bryce Ward, and Craig Ravesloot, along with former RTC:Rural researcher Jennifer Wong, were awarded the 2020 NARRTC Best Paper Award for their Social Science & Medicine article “Health status changes with transitory disability over time.”

NARRTC over a blue wavy line

“It is a real honor to be recognized by such an esteemed group of researchers,” said Andrew Myers, RTC:Rural Project Director and lead author on the paper.

NARRTC presents the award annually to showcase the work of National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) grantees. Winners are announced during the awards ceremony at the annual NARRTC conference, which was held online this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The winning paper builds upon previous RTC:Rural research by examining how changes in self-reported disability status are related to changes in self-reported health status. (See “RTC:Rural researchers publish paper on health status and transitory disability” for a summary of the paper). It was published in the January 2020 issue of Social Science & Medicine, and was available online in October 2019.

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New fact sheet: Unemployment among people with disabilities during COVID-19

Temporary employment may be becoming permanent

cover of fact sheet: unemployment among people with disabilities during COVID-19 recession. Link to full fact sheet in post.

People with disabilities are often the first to experience economic disruptions, and among the last to recover. Unemployment among people with disabilities spiked to 18.9% in April 2020 and declined to 12.5% in September. Both the initial increase and recent decrease in unemployment was primarily driven by changes in temporary unemployment (unemployed workers who expect to go back to their same job within six months). While temporary unemployment has gone down, permanent unemployment has risen since the recession began, and may indicate that for some, temporary unemployment is becoming permanent.

As the recession wears on and unemployment benefits begin to expire, long-term recovery to pre-pandemic levels may become elusive, yet again leaving people with disabilities behind.

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America at a glance: Early fears realized as COVID-19 surges in rural counties

COVID-19 has arrived in rural America. Indeed, the worst outbreaks in October 2020 were in counties with populations less than 50,0001. We knew it was coming2, and yet communities are unprepared to face the significant challenges of caring for COVID-19 patients.

US map showing difference between estimated need for COVID-19 ICU beds and beds available across US counties.
Map of the U.S. showing the difference between expected need for ICU beds and local availability by county. Larger map and text description below.

Risks and impacts of COVID-19 are not distributed evenly. This is especially true for people with disabilities and rural residents who face significant challenges to accessing healthcare. For COVID-19, risk increases with advanced age (aged 65 and older), congregate living such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities, and for individuals with several health conditions including asthma, diabetes, blood disorders, serious heart conditions, severe obesity, and for those who are immunocompromised3. Many of these conditions are reported at higher rates among the population of people with disabilities, placing them at higher risk of COVID-19 related complications4.

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Another successful APRIL conference in the books!

2020 APRIL Conference logo- a computer with text above and below. "2020 APRIL Conference. 2020 and beyond: Building the Next Generation of IL. Virtual conference... real world change.

A huge THANK YOU to everyone at the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) for another wonderful conference. Even though we couldn’t be together in person this year, everyone here at RTC:Rural appreciated that we were still able to connect and come together as a community. Thank you to everyone who participated in the conference!

For those with conference logins, recordings of the presentations can be found on the 2020 APRIL Conference website, on the Agenda page.

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Resources for voters with disabilities

icon of the White House

The U.S. Presidential election will be held on November 3, 2020. While many people have had the opportunity to vote early or by mail or absentee ballots, some may be waiting to vote in person on Election Day.

Here are some resources for voters with disabilities to help learn about and navigate voting, advocacy, and other public policy issues.


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RTC gears up for the 26th APRIL conference

2020 APRIL Conference logo- a computer with text above and below. "2020 APRIL Conference. 2020 and beyond: Building the Next Generation of IL. Virtual conference... real world change.

This year the 26th annual Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) conference “2020 and Beyond: Building the Next Generation of IL” is online, and will be held October 12-16. We are proud to be part of this year’s conference to continue our work alongside APRIL and the Centers for Independent Living it represents.

Registration, a draft agenda, and other information can be found on the APRIL website.

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People with disabilities living in the path of Hurricane Laura

Map showing disability rates of counties in the path of Hurricane Laura. Text description on page.
Larger image and text description below.

Understanding the needs of a community is imperative in order to effectively organize natural disaster emergency response. As people begin to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Laura, national, state and local community emergency planners and response teams are working to provide support for thousands of people who have evacuated or have sustained damage to their homes. People with disabilities are one of many vulnerable groups especially at risk during natural disasters.

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RTC:Rural recognized in federal informational bulletin on rural housing and accessibility

first page of the Join HHS, HUD, and USDA Informational Bulletin

On August 19, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a joint Informational Bulletin titled: “Living at Home in Rural America: Improving Accessibility for Older Adults and People with a Disability”.

The bulletin shares information about federally-funded resources that can help people with disabilities and older adults, especially those living in rural areas, to remain in their homes and communities. The bulletin shares these resources with state Medicaid agencies, state and local housing agencies, state and local public health agencies, and other health and housing entities.

ACL- Administration for Community Living

RTC:Rural’s rural independent living and community participation research is mentioned on page 11 in the section about the Administration for Community Living (ACL). For over 30 years, we have been funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR).

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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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