Current Projects


Disability Data Advocates Taking Action (DisDATA)

Promoting data equity

The Rural Institute is supporting the development of a national disability data network. DisDATA (Disability Data Advocates Taking Action) promotes disability data equity. DisDATA members include disabled people, service providers, researchers, activists, and advocates. Members advocate for equity via the representation of disabled people at all levels of data collection.

DisDATA promotes including disability-led organizations, disabled researchers, and disability advocates in data decision making. DisDATA also hopes to connect people across shared data needs, interests and actions. We want to bridge the data divides between research, lived experience, policy development and advocacy.

Email:                   Lillie Greiman (

Phone:                 (406) 243-6102


Expanding the Availability and Quality of Rural Data

Rural analyses of existing large data sets

RTC:Rural is partnering with the Disability Statistics and Demographics Rehabilitation and Research Training Center (StatsRRTC) and the Collaborative on Health Reform and Independent Living (CHRIL) to conduct rural analyses of existing large data sets. These data will help describe the experiences of rural people with disabilities, and can be used to inform advocates, service providers, researchers and policymakers.

Email:                   Catherine Ipsen (

Phone:                 (406) 243-4562


Exploring Rural Disability Onset

Understanding how disability evolves

 RTC:Rural’s research has found that people who live in rural areas begin to experience disability as much as 10 years before people in urban areas. There are also higher rates of disability in rural areas across all age groups. RTC:Rural has also found that racial and ethnic minorities experience the highest disability rates as well as the greatest urban/rural differences.

This study will use data to explore the following questions:

  • How does disability evolve and vary between urban and rural areas?
  • What are the common precursors of disability in urban and rural areas?
  • How does migration from an urban area to a rural one (or vice versa) affect disability severity?

Email:                   Catherine Ipsen (

Phone:                 (406) 243-4562


Rural Access to Health Insurance and Health Care

Answering questions about health care and quality of life

The Collaborative on Health Reform and Independent Living (CHRIL) is conducting a nation-wide survey to understand how changes in health care reimbursement affects working-age people with disabilities. RTC:Rural is partnering with CHRIL to increase the rural representation in the survey and to answer rural-specific questions about health care coverage, availability, and quality of life.

Email:                   Catherine Ipsen (

Phone:                 (406) 243-4562


Rural Resource Analysis

Mapping community resources and networks

The availability of community resources, as well as access to those resources, has a large impact on the experience of disability. 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. This study will also examine the relationships between community resources and disability rates across the U.S.

Email:                   Lillie Greiman (

Phone:                 (406) 243-6102                                 


Building Networks to Expand Living Well Delivery

Scaling up a health promotion program

Living Well in the Community (LWC) is an evidence-based, peer-led self-management program that helps participants to set and reach quality-of-life goals by developing a healthy lifestyle. RTC:Rural provides training and certification for Centers for Independent Living (CILs) to conduct the workshops. Due to COVID-19, we are providing Living Well training and peer support to CIL partners via online workshops.

Email:                   Tannis Hargrove (

Phone:                 (406) 243-5719


Personal Assistance Services (PAS) in Rural America

Exploring and addressing rural PAS outcomes

Approximately 2.3 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 how these services influence community participation and health. This project will explore and develop models address rural PAS delivery.

Email:                   Rayna Sage (

Phone:                 (406) 243-5233


Rural Transportation Options

Exploring accessible transportation in rural communities

The lack of accessible public transportation is still a major barrier to employment, healthcare access, and community participation for people with disabilities. Though public transportation barriers exist in both urban and rural places, there is a lack of knowledge about how people with disabilities access and use transportation in their rural communities. This project will begin to compile an evidence-base to better understand the value and importance of rural public transit.

Email:                   Andrew Myers (

Phone:                 (406) 243-4683


Rural Self-Employment

Developing and evaluating online toolkits for state & tribal Vocational Rehabilitation

Self-employment is an important option for people with disabilities, especially in rural areas where job opportunities are limited. To expand access to self-employment, this project will create, pilot, and evaluate two self-employment resources for state and tribal Vocational Rehabilitation programs.  Through community-engaged product development, the project has developed the Vocational Rehabilitation Self-Employment Guide and Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation Self-Employment Toolkit. The project is now focusing on outreach and evaluation of the guide and toolkit.

Website:              Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation Self-Employment Toolkit (

Website:              Vocational Rehabilitation Self-Employment Guide (    

Email:                   Catherine Ipsen (

Phone:                 (406) 243-4562


Impacts of COVID-19 on People with Disabilities

Tracking how people with disabilities are being impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic

The goal of this project 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 are experiencing 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 the pandemic will inform planning for the ongoing pandemic and future health crises.

Email:                   Andrew Myers (

Phone:                 (406) 243-4683


Rural Disability Hub for COVID-19 Vaccination Outreach

Investigating and addressing rural barriers to COVID-19 vaccination

The Rural Disability Hub for COVID-19 Vaccination Outreach project focuses on ways to improve vaccination and masking practices, particularly among people with disability in rural communities. The project will promote community-informed materials and outreach strategies and share recommendations for addressing barriers to vaccination. Focus groups from varied communities will provide insight into effective approaches.

The Rural Disability Hub will disseminate materials and strategies through disability, health care, public health, and other partners at the local, state and national levels.

Email:                   Andrew Myers (

Phone:                 (406) 243-4683


Research and Training Center on Promoting Interventions in Community Living (RTC: PICL)

Interventions to increase community participation

The Rural Institute is partnering with the Research and Training Center on Promoting Interventions for Community Living (RTC/PICL) Center to study two complementary interventions: the Home Usability Program and Out and About. The project is partnering with four centers for independent Living.

The Home Usability Program teaches individuals with disabilities to self-assess and improve the usability of their homes. Previous research shows that people with disabilities who have more usable homes (accessible bathrooms, for example) are more likely to participate in their communities because they expend less energy in daily self-care, thus freeing up more time for other activities.

Out and About, the other intervention, teaches participants to set goals for community participation and solve problems related to barriers in the community, such as inaccessible transportation or lack of access to health care. Out and About also builds social networks by using peer support in the pursuit of participants’ goals.

Website:              Research and Training Center on Independent Living (

Email:                   Lillie Greiman (

Phone:                 (406) 243-6102


Healthy Community Living / Motivation for Self-Management

Independent living workshops focused on health and community living skills

Healthy Community Living is a multi-media health promotion and independent living program to improve health and wellbeing. It provides support, education and skill-building opportunities for people with disabilities to reach personal goals. Three separate curricula blend in-person program delivery with online social engagement and website materials.

Website:              Healthy Community Living

Email:                   Tannis Hargrove ( or

Phone:                 (406) 243-5719

Facebook:           @HealthyCommunityLiving


The Living Well in the Community App

Building an app using Living Well with a Disability program content

 Living Well in the Community (LWC) is a health promotion program developed by RTC:Rural. The LWC program is taught online with groups or in person using multimedia content. We are using funding from an App Factory grant to the Shepherd Center to make LWC program content available with an app. Some people may use the app to support their learning in the LWC class, while others may choose to work through the content on their own.

Email:                   Tannis Hargrove (

Phone:                 (406) 243-5719


Rural Community Living Development

Developing peer-to-peer training to support independent living in rural areas

The Rural Community Living Development project partners with the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) to develop and implement peer-to-peer training for Centers for Independent Living (CIL) staff about engaging in community development activities in rural areas to support people with disabilities living independently in their communities. NIDILRR-funded community living resources will be utilized and promoted as well.

Email:                   Rayna Sage (

Phone:                 (406) 243-5233


Project Connect: Online Peer Support to Reduce Social Isolation

Working with community-based agencies to build social networks

Project Connect is developing a curriculum to help people with disabilities build social networks. The project aims to reduce social isolation and loneliness. Social isolation increases health risks and has been made more severe by the COVID-19 pandemic. Project Connect is partnering with the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) and five Centers for Independent Living to create a multi-media curriculum.

Email:                   Rayna Sage (

Phone:                 (406) 243-5233