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White nets $3.25 million to help disabled take part in comunity

A KU disability research center has won a $3.25 million grant from the National Institute on Disability Rehabilitation and Research to help people with disabilities participate more fully in their communities.

"We need much more systematic evidence about the impact of federal and state mandates to integrate people with disabilities into their communities," said Glen White, director of KU's Research and Training Center on Independent Living.

Finding this evidence is the basis of the five-year project called Research and Training Center on Measurement and Interdependence in Community Living.

Currently there is an increased emphasis on deinstitutionalization of people with all types of disabilities - moving them back into less restrictive community settings, White said. But moving from an institution into a community only allows a person to be an "occupant" in a home unless there are effective programs, policies and practices to help increase their integration into everyday community activities.

White, a professor of applied behavioral science with a special interest in community development, will lead a research team that will develop measures and methods to assess and overcome barriers to community participation. Topping the list of barriers, said White, is the lack of qualified personal assistive services and inaccessible communities. "This project will pioneer how we evaluate the effectiveness and cost benefit of guidelines, supports and programs to achieve our national agenda of inclusion and participation." White said.

Scientists in the field of disability research from Washington University, the University of Montana, Cornell University and the Oregon Health Sciences University will collaborate on the project.

White will also include on the project people with a range of disabilities from across the country, including KU students, in what he calls "consumer-empowered team research," an approach he helped pioneer.

The Research and Training Center on Independent Living, established in 1980, has built an international reputation as one of the few academic research groups on the independence of people with disabilities. Since its inception, the center has received grants and contracts totaling more than $18 million. The center is one of the 12 research centers of the Life Span Institute.

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