Guest blog post by Dr. Meg Ann Traci, RTC:Rural Knowledge Broker
The devastating and disproportionate rates of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and deaths in institutional settings continues to be part of the national crisis. With data from the 23 states that publicly report data on deaths within long term care facilities, such as nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates more than one in four COVID-19 related deaths in those states (27%) occurred in such settings. The threat within these medical and personal care settings put people with disabilities and others unable to maintain and manage independence in the community, at increased risk. In rural areas, the threat to such institutionalized populations is likely even greater.
Understanding the needs of a community is imperative to effectively plan for any type of emergency response, be it natural disaster or a pandemic. As people around the world are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the needs of people with disabilities should not be overlooked or go unaddressed as members of those communities. To assess the impact of COVID on people with disabilities and their needs, it’s important to understand the prevalence of disability by the functional limitations of people living with disabilities experience in their communities.
According to the American
Community Survey, about 41 million, or 13%, of Americans have at
least one type of disability (ACS 2015). The vast majority (38 million) live in
households with other people and a significant number of people with
disabilities live in group quarters, which includes dormitories, nursing homes,
Approximately 78 million people without disabilities live in
households with a member who experiences a disability. This means that nearly
25% of the US population lives in a household with a member with a disability.
October is National Disability Employment
Awareness Month! RTC:Rural joins with many others to celebrate the
contributions of workers with disabilities. We are pleased to highlight the
work being done to support people with disabilities in rural communities as
they work towards achieving their employment goals.
Barriers to Rural Employment
For people with disabilities who live in rural areas, job
opportunities are limited. There are physical barriers, such as inaccessible
buildings and no accessible transportation, and also attitudinal barriers, such
as negative stereotypes and discrimination. These barriers often keep people
with disabilities from participating how they want in work, school, and
community life. These barriers also contribute to increased social and economic
inequality between people with and without disabilities.
Benefits of Employment
Employment has obvious economic benefits, but it also is
important because it helps people participate in their communities and increases
their overall well-being. Research shows that people with disabilities who are
employed report that they participate more in their communities. They also feel
more socially connected to other people.
RTC:Rural’s Disability in America State Profile
Map Series is well underway! We have maps for 17 states posted on
the website so far, and more are coming soon. In the next two months general
disability maps for every state (for example, Montana
and Puerto Rico
will be complete and available on the RTC:Rural website. Once the general
disability rate maps are completed, we will work to produce maps showing different
topics for each state. These include:
Disability rates among females and males
People with vision, cognitive, mobility, self-care, and Independent Living difficulties
Veterans with disabilities
People with disabilities in poverty
Employment, unemployment, and out of labor force rates among people with disabilities