Building Capacity for Full Community Participation Adam Burnett: Partner Success Story

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The Research & Training Center on Community Living is grateful to the many staff members from centers for independent living and other community-based organizations and the consumers who partner on our research to enhance community living. Here is one partner’s story.

Partner Success Story: Adam Burnett

“Community and government organizations, especially local ones, are actually coming to us now for assistance with making the community more accessible, so it’s been great participating in this research project.”

- Adam Burnett, Director of Core Services, Resource Center for Independent Living, Inc., Osage City, Kansas

Research in Action

What can a wheelchair user do when a flashing crosswalk signal doesn’t allow enough time to cross the street safely from curb to curb?

Adam Burnett, Director of Core Services at Resource Center for Independent Living, Inc. in Osage City, Kansas, found the solution to this and other barriers encountered by people with disabilities by taking part in the research project “Building Capacity for Full Community Participation.”

Researchers Glen White, PhD, Jerry Schultz, PhD, and Christina Holt, MA, worked with staff members from eight CILs in four states on this research. Their goal was to increase the ability of CIL staff and consumers to make changes in the community so that people with disabilities could participate more fully.

To begin the project, CIL staff members used KU’s online resource the Community Tool Box ( to learn how to plan strategically, develop an intervention, and build advocacy skills. Then the CIL staff shared that information with their consumers.

“The Tool Box helped group members who maybe weren't comfortable or weren’t familiar with getting out there and providing some advocacy on their own,” Burnett said. “It has been instrumental in helping those consumers develop the capacity to make changes.”

Next, Burnett and his colleagues worked with RCIL’s peer support Friends Groups to take actions and make changes. Consumers in the seven Kansas cities that RCIL serves identified barriers to participation and took action to correct the issues that were important to them. 

In one city, for example, they challenged every area restaurant to offer an alternate format menu — either large print, Braille, or both. Most of the groups held voter registration drives, and others addressed accessibility in buildings from their City Hall to the local library.

Then there was that too-short crosswalk timer at the main intersection in town. The Friends Group discovered the street was a state highway, so their advocacy efforts with local officials had to extend to the Kansas Department of Transportation.

Now, thanks to the work of these advocates, the intersection has a longer crosswalk timer and updated controls (see photo). People with disabilities need not rush to cross the street.

This research project also provided the CILs with an online tool for documenting and tracking their center’s activity over a span of three years. In that time, Burnett and the RCIL groups accomplished 38 changes in the community. In addition to these measurable changes, Burnett said the actions increased disability awareness in their communities.

For more Information:

Glen W. White, PhD


Jerry Schultz, PhD

The University of Kansas

The contents of this document were developed under a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR grant number 90RT5015). NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). These contents do not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, or HHS, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.