Val Renault
Research and Training Center on Independent Living

Grant set to improve community participation by people with disabilities

Wed, 10/19/2016

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas Research and Training Center on Independent Living (RTC/IL) has been awarded a five-year, $4.375 million grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research to promote community participation for adults with physical disabilities. The project is a collaboration with the University of Montana and will be co-directed by Glen White at KU and Craig Ravesloot at Montana.

The new Research and Training Center on Promoting Interventions for Community Living will investigate the effectiveness of evidence-based interventions that modify home environments and enhance the personal skills of people with disabilities as a way to increase their community participation. It will also promote the dissemination and utilization of successful practices.  

White, who is director of the RTC/IL and professor of applied behavioral science, said the new grant provides an opportunity to more fully develop strategies that have proven effective in the center’s previously funded research.

“People with disabilities want to participate fully in their communities,” he said. “This grant gives us an opportunity to further build on our earlier successes and increase the scale and validity of our research and outcomes.”   

White said this research addresses a persistent issue.

“Although great efforts, including deinstitutionalization, anti-discrimination policies and community-based services, have improved opportunities and accessible environments for people with disabilities, members of this group still face challenges to living and participating in the community, such as access to housing, transportation and health care,” he said. “This project will help participants learn networking skills and how to set and achieve personal goals as a way to overcome those barriers.”

The center will study two complementary interventions. “Home Base” teaches individuals with disabilities to self-assess and improve the usability of their homes. Ravesloot’s previous research shows that people with disabilities who have more usable homes (for example, in their bathrooms) 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.

In addition to the environmental focus of this intervention, Home Base uses problem-solving and goal-setting to build participants’ self-determination and capacity for making home modifications. Home Base also assists nonprofit Centers for Independent Living (CILs), which provide advocacy and services for people with disabilities, to build a communitywide Home Usability Network to support their consumers who want to make home improvements.

The other intervention, “Out and About,” 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. This intervention incorporates two evidence-based programs from the RTC/IL’s previous work, Health Access for Independent Living and Living Well with a Disability. 

Jean Ann Summers, research professor and director of research for the center, said that research participants’ outcomes will be measured both quantitatively and qualitatively. Evaluations will include increased usability of participants’ homes; increased health and reduction of secondary health conditions (which are conditions related to a person’s primary disability); personal goals achieved; and increased participation in the community. Community participation includes any activity a person wants to engage in, such as meeting friends at a restaurant or theater; belonging to a social group, club or church; and volunteering, working or attending school.

The RTC/IL is one of 13 centers in KU’s Life Span Institute, which conducts research in the service of human health and development.

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