Rayna Sage

Project Director

Rayna Sage is a rural sociologist and began working with RTC: Rural in November of 2016.

In her work here, she uses both qualitative and quantitative methods to engage in participatory action research that informs programming, services, and community development activities that help improve community living for people with disabilities. Dr. Sage is particularly interested in how inequalities related to disabilities intersect with other inequalities such as racism, sexism, and discrimination towards people of the LGBTQ community in rural spaces.

Before joining the RTC: Rural, she was a clinical assistant professor in Human Development teaching and coordinating internships in human services. She completed her PhD at Washington State University in 2012 and before this spent four years as a home visiting social worker for rural low-income families with small children.

Dr. Rayna Sage is a Member-at-Large (2022-2025) on the National Association of Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers (NARRTC) Executive Committee.



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(406) 243-5233

Current Projects

 Rural Community Living Development (lead)

The goal of the Rural Community Living Development project is to partner with the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living to develop and implement a peer to peer mentor training for Centers for Independent Living that prepares staff to work on community development activities in rural areas. The outcome of this process will be better support for rural people with disabilities to live independently in their communities by accessing NIDILRR-funded community living resources.


Personal Assistant Services in Rural America (lead)

In partnership with the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) and providers of rural home- and community-based services, the Personal Assistant Services project aims to identify how personal assistant services are associated with community participation in urban and rural places.


Personal Care Assistance in Rural America (lead)

The experiences of those providing personal assistance services in rural America is not well understood. This exploratory project uses national data to first map the distribution of personal assistance services (PAS) workers and those who need their services due to having self care disabilities (e.g., difficulty bathing, dressing, running errands). We highlight areas in the US where there are too few workers for the number of people who have self care disabilities. To understand the experience of rural workers, we employed participatory photo mapping (PPM). Rural PAS workers take photos representing their work and then we interview them about their photos to gain a better understanding of the challenges, opportunities, and work they do in rural America.


National Survey for Disability and Health (lead)

In partnership with the University of Kansas Institute on Health and Disability Policy Studies, this longitudinal survey aims to provide detailed information for US adults with disabilities about their experiences with health care services and health insurance. This project is part of the Collaborative on Health Reform and Independent Living.


Rural Resource Analysis

The availability of community resources, as well as access to those resources, has a large impact on the experience of disability. Using community asset mapping and network analysis methodology, this project will identify the resources available in a community and then figure out how those resources are linked to each other and how individuals know about and access those resources. As well as examining local assets and networks, this study will also examine the relationships between community resources and disability rates across the U.S.


Impacts of COVID-19 on People with Disabilities

The goal of this exploratory research is to investigate how COVID-19, and responses to it, are impacting people with disabilities in rural and urban places. Like everyone else, people with disabilities will likely experience the impacts of COVID-19 differently depending on where they live and resources available to them. Understanding how these individuals are responding and adapting to this pandemic is critical for informing planning and creating accommodations for future crises.


Project CONNECT: Online peer support to reduce social isolation (lead)

Project CONNECT logoProject CONNECT will develop an online curriculum that community-based agencies can use to help people with disabilities living in the community develop social networks to reduce social isolation and loneliness, which causes increased health risks and has been made more severe by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.