Tag Archives: community participation

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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New toolkit available to help make rural community events accessible for all

Event accessibility, online and off

cartoon drawing of stick figure with curly brown hair sits at desk with laptop

With so many community events going online, it’s still important to remember to make sure they are accessible. While our newest toolkit was designed for use at both indoor and outdoor rural community events, there are many considerations that also apply to online events as well. The spirit of community inclusion, support and connection carries on until once again it is safe for us to gather in person at community events.


Looking for ways to help make community events more accessible? Check out RTC:Rural’s newest toolkit, the Community Assessment for Accessible Rural Events (or CAARE) Toolkit. The toolkit was created to help community members make sure their rural community events are accessible and inclusive. It includes resources such as checklists of accessibility issues and tools that help advocates conduct surveys and collect feedback from event attendees. The toolkit also contains materials with step-by-step instructions on how to analyze that feedback so it can be shared with event organizers.

cartoon drawing of person with prosthetic leg stands holding a pencil and checklist

 “Disability advocates and event organizers can use this toolkit to work together to plan for accessibility, identifying realistic accessibility goals and using a simple survey tool at the event to learn how people experience accessibility,” said Dr. Rayna Sage, RTC:Rural Project Director.

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New research brief: How do adults with travel-limiting disabilities get around?

Transportation is still a barrier

Cover/first page of research brief: America at a glance- how do working-age adults with travel-limiting disabilities get around?

RTC:Rural’s newest research brief examines how rural people with disabilities use different types of transportation. These include being a driver, asking others for rides, special transportation services, reduced-fare taxis, and public transportation.

People with disabilities, especially in rural areas, still report transportation as a significant barrier to full inclusion and participation in community life, nearly 30 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. Understanding how people with disabilities get around is an important first step for improving transportation options.

Using data from the 2017 National Household Travel Survey, this research brief explores travel behaviors and characteristics of rural and urban people with disabilities.

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Reaching Consumers During COVID-19 with the Healthy Community Living Program

The Healthy Community Living (HCL) Program is a collection of workshops that support opportunities for all people to live well and participate in their communities.

HCL is usually delivered through in-person workshops. Since in-person delivery of services is not recommended or not permitted right now as we all live with the presence of COVID-19, we’re sharing some ways to make HCL available to consumers remotely.

Limited offer: Access HCL for free now through May 1

HCL CLS LWC Logos - link to website

To help provide another way for people to connect to peer support, and also for CIL staff to access professional development trainings they can do on their own time, HCL is offering a free one-year license, now through May 1.

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Working Well with a Disability facilitator training: register now!

Working Well with a Disability

Registration for the February 2020 Working Well with a Disability online facilitator training is now open. The training will take place over eight days, starting the week of February 3. Space is limited, so please only register if you know you can attend. Registration closes on January 20th, 2020.


Working Well with a Disability Facilitator Training Details

Training dates: February 3rd – 12th. Training includes online self-study and discussion participation and a live webinar on February 12th.

A group of youth with different disabilities laugh and smile while posing together

Total time required: 8-10 hours (estimate) over 8 business days, in addition to time to read the Working Well manual.

Cost: $130 per person. Cost includes a manual in your preferred format.

Registration deadline: January 20.

How to register: Complete the brief form Working Well February 2020 Training Pre-Registration

After initial registration, you will receive an email containing a training schedule, a training overview, and the link with instructions to finalize your registration and payment.

Once you’ve registered, you should also have your agency review and agree to the Organizational Licensing Agreement, which is found here: Working Well Organizational Licensing Agreement


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Rural Institute Researchers awarded 5 year Rural Community Living Development Grant

The University of Montana Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities (RIIC) is pleased to announce a staff team has been awarded a five-year, $981,803 Disability and Rehabilitation Research Project grant by the National Institute on Disability Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research within the Administration for Community Living.

The newly funded project, Rural Community Living Development (RCLD), is led by Rural Sociologist and Project Director Dr. Rayna Sage, and Dr. Craig Ravesloot, Clinical Psychologist and Research Director for the Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities (RTC:Rural).

A group of people in a community park enjoying a picnic. Two of the people are using powerchairs.

The purpose of the Rural Community Living Development project is to provide space and facilitate conversations among community members to help them connect to resources and information they might not otherwise have access to.

Using a combination of independent living philosophy, peer mentoring and community development approaches, research staff will work with Centers for Independent Living (CILs) to take collective action that leads to positive change for and with people with disabilities living in rural areas.

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RTC:Rural researchers publish paper on rural/urban differences in social connectedness and perceived isolation for people with disabilities

Dr. Meredith Repke, RTC:Rural Research Associate, and Dr. Catherine Ipsen, RTC:Rural Director, recently published a paper in the Disability and Health Journal titled “Differences in social connectedness and perceived isolation among rural and urban adults with disabilities.”

Screenshot of the first page of journal article titled "Differences in social connectedness and perceived isolation among rural and urban adults with disabilities"

In the paper, Repke and Ipsen analyze survey data from the nation-wide Health Reform and Disability Survey to explore how a number of factors are related to social participation and perceived isolation for people with disabilities, and to see if there are differences for those who live in rural vs urban areas. These factors include number of disabilities, self-rated health, employment status, and living arrangements (alone or with others).

Previous studies have compared social isolation to smoking in terms of risk to public health. Some groups of people have a much higher risk of social isolation, including people with disabilities and rural residents. This research builds on previous work by considering how the potentially compounding effects of disability status and living in a rural area may affect social participation and perceived isolation.  

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Research Snapshot: PAS in Rural America

Rayna Sage at a rodeo with mountains in the background
Dr. Rayna Sage.

Approximately 10 million people with disabilities receive paid personal assistance services (PAS) in the United States. For many, these services are critical for social and community participation. However, little is known about rural-urban differences in PAS delivery and consumption, and how these services influence community participation and health.

To address this lack of understanding, RTC:Rural is conducting research on PAS in rural America.

Dr. Rayna Sage, RTC:Rural Project Director, explains the project and its goals, and gives a quick progress update.

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RTC: Rural project sets out to explore what types of transportation people in rural areas use

The Rural Transportation Options project, which will help build a more complete understanding of how rural people with disabilities use public and other forms of accessible transportation, is getting ready to begin a pilot survey. Paper surveys will be available on public buses in Park County, Montana later this year. There are also options to take the survey online, or to call in and take it over the phone.

Screenshot of the Park Co. and UM Transportation Survey

The survey includes questions about what type of transportation the participant is using for the current trip, the purpose of their trip, if the trip was scheduled ahead of time, and types of transportation used in the last 30 days.

“This brief ridership survey will help us: 1) understand how people use public transit in Park County, MT and 2) shape our survey materials and procedures for dissemination nationwide,” said Andrew Myers, RTC:Rural Project Director.  

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UM undergrad wins Best Presentation Award for research with RTC:Rural director on loneliness and aging

Over the past semester, RTC:Rural Director Dr. Catherine Ipsen worked with University of Montana (UM) undergraduate Nelson Weaver on his senior capstone project about the effects of loneliness on the aging population. Weaver’s poster presentation won a best presentation award at UM’s Conference of Undergraduate Research. He graduated in May 2018 with a major in psychology and a minor in communication studies.

Nelson Weaver holds his award and stands next to Catherine Ipsen.
Nelson Weaver (left) and Catherine Ipsen (right).

Weaver contacted Ipsen about his interest in psychology and well-being of those experiencing mental and physical impairments and asked about possible capstone research opportunities. “This inquiry came at the perfect time,” said Ipsen. “I was juggling lots of projects, but wanted to make headway on a grant proposal idea focused on aging and health impacts of loneliness. Nelson was the perfect fit.”

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