"Just trying to adjust to the new reality that seems to be changing every hour": Lessons learned from nation-wide peer meetings on COVID-19 with rural disability service providers

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, providers of independent living services for rural disabled people were forced to adapt how they conducted their operations. This study is a primary analysis of data based on transcripts from eight meetings of a nationwide network of service providers (n = 40-150 participants per meeting), who met virtually to provide peer support during the unfolding pandemic. We used qualitative thematic analysis to understand the ways these service providers adapted to address the needs of rural disabled people during the pandemic. We identified four main themes describing organizational adaptations. Although this was a predominantly challenging time, service providers identified ways their adaptations were beneficial. These included creating new ways to connect, reaching more people with disabilities, and reducing commuting time to provide services. Service providers intended to continue using their adapted strategies and platforms for providing services, and thus projected these benefits would be long-lasting.

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