RTC:Rural heads to Denver, Colorado this October for the annual Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) conference. The conference will be October 5 – 8, and the theme is “Roots of Change Grow a Mile High.”
As well as sharing information and resources at vendor tables, RTC:Rural staff will meet with national partners, share research updates, and gather input that will help shape future research projects. We have a long-standing partnership with APRIL, and are looking forward to coming together to continue to support people with disabilities so they can participate in their rural communities.
Before the full meeting starts, the Healthy Community Living (HCL) team will have an in-person meeting with Center for Independent Living (CIL) partners. This meeting launches the evaluation of Community Living Skills and Living Well in the Community health-promotion workshops. The meeting includes an orientation and overview of the HCL project, a review of the content of each workshop, and training so that CIL partners can effectively evaluate the program once they return home. This training will include things like participant recruitment and research requirements. CIL partners, who are located across the country, will have a chance to onboard, meet each other and the RTC:Rural project staff, and continue to build trusting relationships that will help facilitate communication and collaboration as the project moves forward.
To learn more about the HCL project, visit the Healthy Community Living project page.
During the conference, RTC:Rural researchers will share and invite discussion around research results and implications. Dr. Craig Ravesloot, RTC:Rural Director and Research Advisor, and Project Directors Dr. Rayna Sage and Lillie Greiman, will give a presentation titled, “Cutting Edge IL Research on Rural Community Living.” In their presentation, they will cover three RTC:Rural research topics: Rural CIL service coverage; rural community events; and satisfaction with rural community participation.
Satisfaction with Rural Community Participation
People are the most satisfied with their community participation when the community accommodates their needs. This discussion will focus on the importance of CIL services in rural communities for increasing accessibility and improving/preserving rural quality of life and generate ideas for increasing availability of rural IL services.
Rural CIL Service Coverage
CIL services are invaluable for people with disabilities living in rural communities. Our research explores what access to rural independent living services looks like across the nation as well as in two rural states, Montana and Arkansas. This presentation identifies barriers that rural consumers and CIL staff face in accessing and providing rural Independent Living (IL) services as well as some strategies and policy recommendations for change. Billy Altom, Executive Director of APRIL, is a partner on this research.
Rural Community Events
Community events, especially in rural places, provide participants with opportunities to connect, build community, and develop community-based skills and knowledge. In our research, the strong desire to preserve historical and cultural integrity of the community is sometimes in conflict with a desire or need to make structural and social adjustments to be more inclusive.
Greiman will also be presenting with Project Coordinator Hayley Steinlage from the University of Kansas and Bronwyn Troutman, Community Living Specialist at Summit Independent Living Center in Missoula, Montana, on their work with the Improving Home Usability project, which is part of the Research and Training Center on Promoting Interventions for Community Living (RRTC/PICL). This project is working to build local networks of housing and community resources so that CILs can better help people with disabilities address usability issues within their homes. In this presentation, Greiman, Steinlage, and Troutman will share a training tool they designed to help build community networks with content focused on IL philosophy and consumer choice and control. They will also lead activities and discussions where conference attendees can discuss strategies for building and maintaining relationships with organizations and individuals in the communities where they work.
In addition to these presentations, RTC:Rural will have a vendor table during the conference. We will be sharing information including maps from our Disability in America Map Series, our advocacy how-to guides, have hands-on demonstrations of the Rural Disability Resource Library, and have ways for APRIL members to get involved in our future research projects as we move into our new grant cycle. In order to gather more information to help influence our future projects, we will have a short, voluntary survey.
If you’re in Denver, be sure to stop by and say hi!