Document Type

Research Progress Report


University of Montana Rural Institute

Publication Date



Demography, Population, and Ecology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


Traditional rehabilitation services are often assumed to be incompatible with independent living (IL) philosophy, but perhaps rural individuals with disabilities might benefit from a collaboration between Centers for independent living (CILs) and rehabilitation services providers. IL philosophy emphasizes improving opportunities for community participation by people with disabilities.1,2 Ecological models of disability emphasize that community participation results when the environment interacts with a person’s capacity to access that environment.3 Participation may increase if environmental accessibility improves, and/or if the individual’s capacity increases. For people with mobility impairments, technology (e.g. wheelchairs) frequently improves individual capacity. Less frequently, changes in a person’s health behavior, such as increased physical activity, can reduce limitation due to secondary conditions and increase personal capacity.4-8 Unfortunately in rural environments people with disabilities rarely have access to opportunities for physical activity, and often lack basic sidewalks and curb cuts to encourage daily physical activity. Centers for independent living provide IL skills training to teach individuals to change their behavior and increase their participation. However, most centers do not have the staff or facilities to help individuals increase their physical capacity. In rural areas, collaboration between physical therapists (PTs) and CILs promises to increase the availability of physical activity for people with disabilities. RTC: Rural researchers interviewed rural physical therapists to explore that possible solution.


community participation and independent living, independent living, physical therapy, health and wellness, rural, disability


© RTC: Rural, 2006.

Granting Agency

National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research


This research is supported by grant #H133B030501 from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Department of Education.

Project Number