Document Type

Research Progress Report


University of Montana Rural Institute

Publication Date



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


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 is arguably the most significant single effort to enhance community participation of people with disabilities (Brown, 2001), in part by promoting physical access to public places and commercial facilities. Specifically, ADA Titles II and III provide disability advocates with legal tools for promoting access to public places. Despite the significance of the ADA legislation, Batavia (1992) points out that the ADA was “passed without documentation of need” and that “no baseline data exist to assess the implementation of the ADA.” Historically, advocates have monitored the implementation and outcomes of the ADA by using a legal model to track numbers of complaints filed, by whom, reasons for complaints, and how complaints were resolved. This incident based approach doesn’t systematically evaluate ADA compliance across communities, however. Without a meaningful tool to provide baseline data, we can’t really measure progress in achieving access goals – just changes in complaints. Many small, rural communities have aging infrastructures, and few have advocacy groups dedicated to implementing the ADA (Innes, et al., 2000). Currently available assessment tools and guidelines don’t ask the questions or offer the solutions rural communities need to make progress. One way to collect data is to observe the accessibility of places and track how they change over time. While researchers can’t observe all places, they can use statistical sampling to describe a population based on a smaller number of observations. This report describes RTC: Rural’s pilot phase of a project to develop a way to sample and measure accessibility across rural communities.


community participation and independent living, community accessibility, rural, disability


© 2008 RTC:Rural.

Granting Agency

National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research


Grant #H133B030501from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Department of Education supports our research.

Project Number