August 28, 2018

RTC:Rural Housing Research Brief explores how housing impacts participation

Screen shot of the cover of the research brief "Life starts at home: exploring how housing impacts participation for people with disabilities."

RTC:Rural recently published a new Research Brief that shares current housing research.

To view and download the Research Brief, click here: Life starts at home: Exploring how housing impacts participation for people with disabilities


Housing and Community Participation

How a space is organized shapes how you use that space. There have been many studies on how the built environment, which includes everything from roads and sidewalks to buildings and parking lots, impacts how people move through and engage with their community. We know that physical barriers in the community, such as stairs, curbs, narrow building entrances, broken sidewalks, and long travel routes can prevent people with mobility impairments from accessing community spaces and limits their ability to move around their community independently.

By removing these barriers, people with disabilities have more opportunities to do things like buy groceries, attend school, be employed, go to the doctor, and socialize or recreate as they wish. Fewer barriers in the environment can mean more opportunities for community participation.

However, if someone can’t get out of their home it won’t matter that the bus stop is accessible. Previous RTC:Rural research found that not only do many people with mobility impairments live in houses that do not meet their needs, but also that they tend to report high levels of exertion while bathing, which means they need to rest more often, and spend less time participating in their communities.

A shower chair in a bathtub. There is a grab bar on the wall above the tub.

This shower chair is an example of one piece of assistive bathing equipment used in the Effort Capacity and Choice project.

Current RTC:Rural research dives deeper into the relationship between the home and community participation. This research brief includes summaries of two current RTC:Rural projects, Effort Capacity and Choice and Home Usability Project.

Effort Capacity and Choice is studying how using assistive equipment in the bathroom, such as shower chairs and commodes, and regular exercise help people maintain independence and participate more in their communities. “We know that people with disabilities use more energy for daily activities in their homes such as bathing and dressing, things people generally do to prepare for their day,” said Andrew Myers, Effort Capacity and Choice Project Director and RTC:Rural Research Associate. “This extra amount of energy may act as a barrier for people who may have to choose between taking care of themselves and going to work, shopping, or meeting with friends. If we can make people’s bathrooms a little easier to use, they may have more energy to do more of the things they want to do.”

Closeup of a hand grasping a lever doorhandle.

A lever-style door handle is easier for people with dexterity issues to grasp and use.

In collaboration with the University of Kansas, the Home Usability Project is working with Centers for Independent Living to develop a program that empowers people with disabilities to identify accessibility issues within their homes and then connects them with the resources they need to address those issues. “The Home Usability Program is about giving you control over your home environment, making it easier and safer to use your home,” said Lillie Greiman, Home Usability Project Director and RTC:Rural Research Associate. “If people have usable homes, they can live independently and participate in their communities.”

By focusing on how people navigate their home environment, and by working to develop effective interventions within the home that facilitate independent living, the results from these research projects can improve the landscape of social inclusion and community living.

To learn more about past and current RTC:Rural housing research, see:

Effort Capacity and Choice

Home Usability Project

Ecology of Participation

Research and Training Center on Promoting Interventions for Community Living (RRTC/PICL)