RTC:Rural researchers publish new paper on trust of information and COVID-19 preventative practices among people with disabilities

February 16, 2021


RTC:Rural researchers recently published a study examining trust in information sources and compliance with COVID-19 public health recommendations among people with disabilities who live in rural and urban locations. “A cross-sectional analysis of trust of information and COVID-19 preventative practices among people with disabilities” was published in Disability and Health Journal, and is currently available online. The research was carried out by RTC:Rural Director Catherine Ipsen and Project Directors Andrew Myers and Rayna Sage

The purpose of the study was to better understand the relationship between how much someone trusts an information source and how likely they are to adhere to COVID-19 preventative practices. Specifically, the researchers wanted to see how disability type, demographics, and geography might be related to trust and adherence to preventative practices.

What they did

The researchers used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) to recruit people to take a survey. Overall, there were 408 responses from 49 U.S. states. Surveys were conducted between April 23, 2020 and May 10, 2020. Respondents provided information about their demographics, disability type, geographic location, level of trust in various information sources, and adherence to several CDC recommended practices for COVID 19.

Summary of findings

Trust in information source

People with hearing and communication disabilities were less likely to trust information sources about COVID-19 than other disability and sociodemographic groups.

With the exception of President Trump, rural respondents with disabilities were less trusting of information sources than urban respondents with disabilities.

Compliance with COVID-19 preventative practices

Higher compliance with preventative practices was associated with being older (65+), a women, White non-Hispanic, living in an urban area, and reporting more trust in information sources (with the exception of Trump).  Lower compliance was associated with higher trust scores for President Trump and for those with communication difficulties relative to other disability groups.


“These results have real life implications for people with disabilities living in rural communities” says Ipsen. “We know from the CDC that being older and having health conditions such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and chronic respiratory disease are associated with worse and sometimes dire outcomes for people who contract COVID-19.  Both people with disabilities and people living in rural places have higher rates of these risk factors, which are coupled with less access to specialty and emergency care in rural communities.  The need for strong compliance with CDC recommended practices is important. Unfortunately, the primary vehicle for compliance is public health messaging, which rural people distrust at higher rates.  Overall, this research calls for consistent public health messaging in ways that people with disabilities can understand and apply.”

Read the full paper here: “A cross-sectional analysis of trust of information and COVID-19 preventative practices among people with disabilities.”