Grant Awarded to Fund Online Peer Support and Social Connections Project

September 27, 2021

The RTC:Rural is pleased to announce a staff team has been awarded a three-year, $597,787 field-initiated project grant by the National Institute on Disability Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research within the Administration for Community Living.

Tannis Hargrove, a woman with dark curly hairThe newly funded project, Project CONNECT (previously Get Connected: Online peer support to reduce social isolation), is led by Principal Investigator Dr. Rayna Sage, and Project Director Tannis Hargrove.

Project 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.

Using Participatory Curriculum Development, staff from RTC:Rural and partner-organization APRIL will work with Centers for Independent Living staff and people with disabilities to develop and evaluate curriculum that fosters peer support. The curriculum aims to train people to use both online technology and in-person tools to build social networks and increase connection to their communities. Course participants will use learned skills to build resilience to set goals, overcome setbacks, and continue to grow connections after the course ends.

Dr. Rayna Sage, a woman wearing a ball cap on a hike in the woods

“I’m excited to get to work with more Centers for Independent Living partners,” said Dr. Sage. “Being able to work alongside them to get people with disabilities connected with their community--virtually or in-person--is a shared goal and is so important for people, especially given the pain and damage COVID-19 has had and continues to have on the disability community.”