Ari Lissau

Research Assistant

Ari Lissau has worked at the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities (RIIC) since 2016. She currently works as a research assistant on multiple projects for the RTC:Rural.

She began working at RTC during her undergraduate studies at the University of Montana, where she completed a BA in Geography, a minor in Global Public Health, and a certificate in Geographic Information Sciences and Technologies (GIST).

Ari is interested in researching disability and health outcomes through a geographic lens employing tools and concepts from spatial epidemiology and intersectionality. Other interests include LGBTQAI+ issues, supporting neurodiversity, fostering inclusivity, enhancing social support systems for people with disabilities, and accessibility.

Projects that Ari has and continues to work on focus primarily on transportation, personal assistance services, community participation, and the geography of disabilities in rural communities.



woman standing outside with snow-covered mountain in background


(406) 243-4688

Current Projects

Rural Transportation Options

The lack of accessible public transportation is a barrier to employment, healthcare access, and other aspects of community participation for people with disabilities. Though 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 develop an evidence-base to better understand rural transportation development through two different surveys and analyses of national datasets.


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.


 Personal Assistant Services in Rural America

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

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.


 Effort Capacity and Choice: Exploring a Dynamic Model of Participation

Participating in the community requires effort, and people vary in how much they spend before needing rest. As a result, everyone must make choices about what activities they spend their effort on. In this project, we will examine the relationship between personal effort and community participation by implementing two unique interventions (bathing modifications and a physical exercise program) and studying their impacts on the choices people make.


Knowledge Translation

RTC: Rural’s Knowledge Translation (KT) and Resource Center program is a national resource for rural people with disabilities, their families, and service providers. The Center communicates our research findings to a broad audience to facilitate knowledge use and adoption to result in increased community participation of people with disabilities and the development of solutions to rural problems.