Disability research gets grant

The grant will cover three fellowships at WSU Spokane

LINH NGUYEN, Evergreen reporter

With a lack of representation in health sciences, a new grant will expand opportunities for researchers with disabilities.

WSU received a federal grant to work with the Collaborative on Health Reform and Independent Living Fellowship, which is a year-long fellowship that will select three post-doctoral student researchers with disabilities to work on studies relating to disability healthcare policies and services on a national level.

CHRIL began around 2014 through a meeting of all the members in Washington, D.C., around the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Although the fellowship is based at WSU, the selected researchers will also have the opportunity to work with three other institutions, in collaboration with CHRIL, giving them an opportunity to travel throughout the country and attend national conferences.

Recipients of the fellowship will work at WSU with Jae Kennedy, the CHRIL Principal Investigator and chair of the Department of Health Policy and Administration at WSU, and Elizabeth Wood, WSU research associate in the Department of Health Policy and Administration.

“It’s interesting to see and figure out how to fit people into the world,” Wood said, “There are a lot of fellowships for learning health policy, [but] not a lot to serve this population specifically.”

Because students with disabilities face many barriers regarding education, they are also far less likely to finish high school and college, said Wood, as the overall goal of the fellowship is to establish that disability inclusion is very important, but that it should also fundable and attainable.

Wood said it is important to include people with disabilities in the process when researching and creating policy.
“Nothing about us, without us,” Wood said.

By bringing in a new generation of researchers, the fellowship will help to provide more opportunities to these students, Wood said.
Recruitment has not yet started, Wood said, but CHRIL is working out the best way to approach the application process for the fellowship, hoping to begin the recruitment process in 2018.

Besides WSU, fellowship recipients will also travel to Houston and work with other researchers, including Lex Frieden, the director of the Independent Living Research Utilization Project.

During Frieden’s freshman year of college, he was in a car accident. Since then, he has been in a wheelchair, and he has worked to advocate for people with disabilities.

“It gave me a perspective about the way people who have disabilities are treated differently, they are segregated and met with negative attitudes,” Frieden said.

He worked for the Independent Living Research Utilization Project since 1978, which is an advocacy organization run by people with disabilities.

Around the country, ILRU helps people with disabilities achieve access to peer counseling, and provide them with information that they wouldn’t get otherwise.

“If I were in college — if I were a little interested in disability,” Frieden said. “I would jump at the chance of working with Jae. It’s a wonderful opportunity for somebody.”

Although the fellowship will be a great opportunity for students with disabilities, Wood said that many have critiqued the lack of WSU staff involved in the fellowship.

Due to this, Wood said that the CHRIL is working to reach out to more staff at WSU’s College of Medicine and Nursing, as they have many qualified researchers to use as resources for the students selected for the fellowship.

The strategic partners of the fellowship also include the National Council of Independent Living (NCIL), American Association on Health and Disability (AAHD), Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living, Disability Research Interest Group (DRIG) and the Urban Institute.