Exploring Research on Disability in Rural Communities

This week is National Public Health Week, organized by the American Public Health Association (APHA). APHA has selected different themes for each day of the week and Wednesday’s theme is Rural Health. According to APHA, Americans who live in rural areas face a range of health disparities including higher burdens of chronic conditions, higher suicide and opioid addiction rates, and less access to primary care and prevention services than those who live in urban areas. Data from the Current Population Survey shows that people in rural areas report higher rates of disability than their peers in urban areas. Rural residents with disabilities, like others who live in rural areas, also have less access to primary care and prevention services as well as encounter more challenges in accessing disability-related services than those in urban areas.

Throughout its history, NIDILRR-funded research in rural communities has sought to address disparities in health, employment, and participation. Current projects include:

Employment Outcomes

The Sinte Gleska University Disability Center program addresses awareness education, and training needs of Tribal disability program personnel and family members in rural Tribal communities throughout the South Dakota Region (including neighboring states).

Community Participation

Increasing Community Participation in Young Adults with Autism Living in Rural Communities assesses the impact of Participation in Rural Settings to Engage in Communities (PARSEC), an intervention for families of young adults with autism living in rural areas to increase community participation.

Technology for Access and Function

The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center: From Cloud to Smartphone – Accessible and Empowering Information and Communication Technology (ICT) seeks to mitigate accessibility barriers to ICT and to identify ways that ICT can improve access to services and supports. This center includes a project on the benefits of parent education via telehealth on speech and language outcomes in children with hearing loss living in rural underserved areas.


The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center for Place-Based Solutions for Rural Community Participation, Health, and Employment conducts research and knowledge translation (KT) activities across health, community living, and employment domains to explore, develop, and test strategies to improve the quality of life of rural people with disabilities. Visit this center to learn more about

  • Data on people with disabilities in rural communities and the “geography of disability”
  • Personal assistance services in rural America
  • Home usability
  • Vocational rehabilitation and self-employment for rural residents with disabilities
  • Rural access to healthcare
  • And much, much more!

The University of Montana has hosted a NIDILRR-funded research and training center focusing on disability in rural communities for more than 30 years.

These are just a few examples of more than 80 current and completed projects listed in the NIDILRR Program Database that have a primary or secondary focus on disability in rural communities. If you are interested in published research in this area, follow these links to explore abstracts from our REHABDATA database:

These are just a few examples of what you’ll find in NARIC’s databases. Contact an information specialist today if we can assist you with your search!

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1 Response to Exploring Research on Disability in Rural Communities

  1. Pingback: Focus on Public Health:  Importance of health screenings for people with disabilities | Collection Spotlight from the National Rehabilitation Information Center

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