Empowering Independence: The Legacy of Vicki Skoog

Four white people in two rows smile at the camera. In back, there are two men wearing suits and between them, there is a woman with a blazer and scarf. In front, there is a woman in a black shirt who is seated in a wheelchair.

Vicki with her siblings. In front: Vicki Skoog. Behind (L-R): Don Heyliger, Susan Handy (Heyliger), and Doug Heyliger.

It is with heavy hearts The Independence Center shares the news of the March 4 passing of our founder, Vicki Skoog.

Born on June 18, 1945, in Michigan, Vicki’s journey led her to Colorado Springs when, in 1959, her father joined the coaching staff of the Air Force Academy hockey team. After pursuing her education at the University of Michigan and Parks Business College in Denver, Vicki dedicated herself to a Federal Civil Service job in Colorado Springs.

Her life changed in an instant in a hailstorm near Limon, Colorado in 1970, when the van in which she was traveling rolled in the severe weather. The accident resulted in Vicki becoming a person with quadriplegia. She spent a month in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at a local hospital and then was transferred to Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado which specializes in spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury rehabilitation and research.

In 1987, Vicki embarked on a journey that would forever change the landscape of home healthcare in Colorado Springs. Frustrated with the lack of full-support home healthcare agencies, as well as the lack of transportation and services for people with disabilities, she decided if a change was needed, she was going to be the one to make it.

With a vision fueled by both compassion and determination, she founded The Independence Center, a Center for Independent Living for individuals with disabilities seeking independence and autonomy in their daily lives.

Driven by her personal experiences and a profound desire to make a difference, Vicki set out to create more than just a home health agency. She envisioned creating a community where individuals with disabilities of all ages could thrive, empowered to live life on their own terms. Thus, The Independence Center was born, with a mission to provide consumer-directed and led services that prioritize the autonomy and well-being of its consumers.

The organization had humble beginnings, with its first offices in Vicki’s home garage. The focus at the time was primarily on transportation and home healthcare. After receiving a grant from the El Pomar Foundation, which allowed the organization to purchase a fully-accessible van, The IC began to provide accessible transportation. The organization continued to grow, with additional focus on employment and housing.

In 1995, Vicki married Ted Skoog, who became CFO of The Independence Center until his passing in 2010. Ted worked with Vicki to complete her vision of a new facility for The IC, which was completed in 2009.

In 2011, to honor the work and legacy of Vicki and Ted Skoog, The Independence Center Fund (The IC Fund), was established to help fund essential programs and services that uphold the values of consumer-directed care. Over the past 13 years, The IC Fund has, among other impactful donations, purchased accessible exam tables for medical offices; helped increase accessibility of historic venues and trails/open spaces, purchased uniforms for the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind’s Special Olympics goalball, volleyball, and football teams. It has also awarded funds to recipients such as the Lincoln Community Hospital Care Center, The Community Transit Coalition, the Colorado Springs Amateur Hockey Association (CSAHA), the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA)/ Colorado Springs Chapter, the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation, Envida, Friends of El Paso County Nature Centers, Lake George Community Park, and the Colorado Veterans Resource Coalition

As we look to the future, the IC Fund remains steadfast in its commitment to advancing the cause of independence and inclusion. Through ongoing support and advocacy, it continues to pave the way for a more accessible and equitable society, where individuals of all abilities can thrive and contribute meaningfully to their communities.­­

Reflecting on the journey of The IC Fund over the past decade, we are reminded of the profound impact that a collective commitment to compassion and inclusivity can have on the world. From its humble beginnings to its ongoing legacy of empowerment, The IC Fund stands as a testament to the enduring power of community and the belief that every individual deserves the opportunity to live life on their own terms.

Vicki leaves behind her sister, Susan Handy; her son, David Mitschler; daughter-in-law, Heather Mitschler; Grandson, Bodey Mitschler, and her beloved best friend, a golden Labradoodle named Lilly. She also had countless friends, caregivers, and fellow disability-rights advocates who will miss her greatly.

As we reflect on the remarkable life of Vicki Skoog, we are reminded of the power of compassion, perseverance, and the profound impact that one person’s vision can have on the world. Her story serves as an inspiration to us all, a reminder that true independence knows no bounds and that with dedication and determination, anything is possible.

Over the years, The Independence Center flourished, guided by Vicki’s unwavering commitment. Her legacy lives on in the countless lives she has touched and the community she transformed. Today, the organization stands as a testament to her vision, providing a wide range of services and programs that empower individuals with disabilities to live so that ALL are Known, Valued, and Included.

 

Celebrating the Holidays with Accessibility in Mind

Even those of us who look forward to the holidays as a time to celebrate with friends and family know that this time of year can be very complicated. Relationships, diets, traditions, and finances are just a few things that need to be juggled, and for people with disabilities, this can be even more difficult.

If you’re hosting or helping put on any festivities, there are a few things you can keep in mind to make sure that everyone who attends, whether they have a disability or not, will feel known, valued, and included:

  • Think about how people will move around the event! Are there any physical barriers that could affect someone with a disability involving their mobility? Look at the paths you expect guests to take from the entrance to the food, to the gifts, to the restrooms. Are spaces wide enough for a wheelchair or someone using a cane or walker? Are there any trip hazards such as tall rugs or power cords? Often, addressing these obstacles can be as easy as moving furniture over a few inches.
  • Especially when the weather outside is frightful, temperature regulation can be challenging. One way to make guests comfortable is to have a stack of blankets available so that they can help themselves if it’s too cold. This is good hosting in general; disability or not, most people love being cozy in the winter!
  • If you’re serving alcoholic drinks, consider offering non-alcoholic versions such as mocktails. Often alcohol can negatively interact with medications, so providing the option to have a fun holiday drink that won’t have any unexpected effects will make your gathering memorable. Examples could be eggnog with the liquor left out, or spiced cider alongside mulled wine.

The possibilities are endless!

Depending on the specifics of your plans, there are all kinds of ways to spread holiday cheer by making your celebrations more accessible for everyone. If there’s someone you have in mind who may have accessibility needs that you’re not sure about, just ask them!

Letting someone with a disability know that you’re thinking about them and that you want them to be able to enjoy themselves fully is a gift at any time of year!

Healthcare equity is still needed for people with disabilities

A group of patients in a hospital hallway sitting in wheelchairs and benches.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in the U.S. more than 30 years ago. One of its requirements is for health care providers, from hospitals to doctors and nurses, to ensure full and equal access to every patient, regardless of disability. Unfortunately, there is still work to be done to achieve this. People with disabilities of all types have reported difficulties in accessing health care. An article published last month in the New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/19/health/doctors-patients-disabilities.html) showcased a recent study from Northwestern University which suggests that some doctors and their clinics are discriminating against patients with disabilities by choosing not to provide them with care.

The study gathered doctors in focus groups to get their thoughts about patients with disabilities, and a shocking number of them expressed discomfort or even hostility towards treating patients with disabilities. When asked if they viewed the ADA as beneficial, many of the doctors were either neutral about this or adversarial, with one saying that the ADA works “against physicians.” They expressed concern over lawsuits from people with disabilities and some doctors have found it easier to just not see those patients.

This may be done by strategically finding ways to avoid scheduling appointments, such as by claiming that they are not taking new clients or telling patients with disabilities that they need a more specialized amount of care than a general practitioner can provide.

The authors of the study theorized a possible cause of this behavior could be a general lack of awareness and exposure to people with disabilities. Some of the doctors interviewed seemed genuinely unsure whether they would be able to provide the care needed. This was often attributed to a lack of familiarity with people with disabilities, with some stating they were doubtful they would be able to provide appropriate accommodations.

To read the study and the author’s conclusions and recommendations: https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.2022.00475

Nearly one in five Americans has a disability of some kind, making it essential for doctors and health care providers to be able to provide them the same level of care as anyone else. If you have a disability, make sure you know your rights so you can advocate for yourself. Remember, people without disabilities can and should advocate for accommodations and access for everyone. When everyone in our society is able to receive the healthcare they need to live fulfilling lives, it makes all of us stronger and healthier.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

A Black woman seated in front of an open laptop computer makes the ASL sign for "help."

October is one of the most important months for disability awareness in the United States, being the month designated for awareness of more than a dozen different impairments and disabling conditions.

Some of these such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression, Down syndrome, and learning disabilities may be familiar and some, such as Dysautonomia, Raynaud syndrome, and selective mutism, may not be. However, they are all equally deserving of attention as well as equity in access to accommodations, treatment, and support.

You can find a full calendar of disability-related dates, anniversaries, and celebrations at this link. The broadest awareness effort of the month, however, is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).

In the U.S., Congress has designated October as NDEAM in order to “acknowledge the contributions to the nation’s economy made by workers with disabilities, current and past.”

The declaration was developed out of a 1945 Act of Congress, which declared the first week of October “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, “physically” was removed from the week’s name to recognize additional kinds of disabilities. In 1988, the week was expanded into span the entire month of October, and became NDEAM.

The right to work, and be paid fairly for that work, has been an ongoing struggle for many groups of people in the U.S., and people with disabilities are no exception. There remains a lingering misconception or stereotype that people with disabilities are not able to work and participate in society, and in some states, workplaces can still legally pay disabled employees less than minimum wage.

Fortunately, Colorado is phasing this program out and, by 2025, employers will be prohibited from paying an employee with a disability a subminimum wage.

People with disabilities can make essential contributions in all areas of life, and the workplace is no exception.

At The Independence Center, our mission is to support people with disabilities as they live independently and participate in life as fully as they wish. Being paid for work is essential to this. The Independence Center is proud to recognize and share information about National Disability Employment Awareness Month in order to help everyone in our community be known, valued, and included wherever they go.

Deaf Awareness Month: The History of Black ASL & the Fight to Save It

Young Black boy and Black man sit on a couch and use sign language to communicate

 

Not only is September Deaf Awareness Month, the International Day of Sign Language is celebrated on September 23rd. When it comes to American Sign Language (ASL), there are a number of misconceptions. One of the most prevalent is that ASL is just English spoken with your hands. This couldn’t be further from the truth. ASL is a rich, visual language that has its own grammar and sentence structure. It evolved not from the English language but from Old French Sign Language. Like every language, sign language grows and shifts over time to accommodate the different needs of the people using it.

For example, modern American English is an adaptation of British English. American English has an offshoot used by many Black Americans, called African American Vernacular English (AAVE).

This has also been mirrored in sign language. However, Black American Sign Language (BASL) is less an offshoot of ASL and more a closer cousin to the original ASL developed by Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet in the early 19th century.

The development of BASL is directly related to segregation. Black and white children were schooled separately well into the 1960s, and in some places even longer. Schools for d/Deaf and blind people were no different.

Traditionally, all d/Deaf students were taught using manualism (ASL and fingerspelling). In the late 1860s, white students began primarily learning through oralism. Oralism encouraged lip reading, speaking, and mouthing words when signing. This was an attempt to discourage the use of sign language because it was considered by some to be a lower form of communication.

Because the education of white children was prioritized, oralism saw little use in Black d/Deaf teaching environments. So, Black signers continued to use and develop ASL, adding new terms, ways of signing, and styles.

One of the most notable differences between BASL and ASL is that BASL has a larger signing space and tends to employ more two-handed signing than ASL. BASL also has signs not found in ASL and that capture phrases and terms used in AAVE. One example is the sign for “stop tripping,” which takes the sign in ASL for trip and moves it to the forehead to change its meaning.

Because ASL is now the standard taught to all signers in the country, the prevalence of BASL may begin to wane within a few generations. To prevent this rich language from being lost entirely, there is now a movement to recognize and preserve it.

Leading the charge is Carolyn McCaskill, who is a professor at Gallaudet University and the co-director of the Black ASL project. The project’s goal is to collect footage of conversationalist BASL and create a description of what makes it a unique variety of ASL. This information will then be used to teach and disseminate information about BASL more widely to new generations.

Note: The writer of this article is white and is not Deaf. To learn more, we suggest the following:

Black ASL Project | Gallaudet University

Sign language that African Americans use is different from that of whites – The Washington Post

Preserving Black American Sign Language in the Deaf community – ABC News (go.com)

Step Up for CP During STEPtember

Logo with the words Steptember move together for cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common lifelong physical disability in the world. It affects roughly 1 million people in the U.S. and 18 million people worldwide. Yet research about CP remains vastly underfunded.

However, by participating in STEPtember, a global health and wellness event, you can make a difference. The virtual event helps Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation (CPARF) raise funds for life-changing scientific and technological advances.

Participating is fun, free, and easy for people of all fitness and ability levels. All you have to do is start moving.

“STEPtember is an inclusive, peer-to-peer fundraising challenge that’s also great for your health,” says Michael Pearlmutter, executive director of CPARF. “You can either take 10,000 steps a day or choose from 80 activities that convert to steps, like physical therapy, handcycling, horseback riding, chores around the house, everything you can possibly imagine. And if 10,000 steps isn’t a reasonable goal, you can set your personal goal to a number that’s meaningful for you.”

Because STEPtember is free, anyone can join the challenge at any time in September. “If someone isn’t interested in the month-long challenge, they can just do a one-week challenge or even a one-day challenge,” says Michael.

To participate, start by registering as an individual or as a team at STEPtember : Register. After that, share your personal fundraising page with friends and family. Finally, track and record your movement in September through the optional app, online, or any other way that works for you.

What Is CP?

While most people have heard of CP, they may not understand exactly what it is. That’s because CP isn’t a singular condition. Instead, it’s an “umbrella term referring to a group of disorders affecting a person’s ability to move,” according to CPARF’s website.

CP occurs when there’s damage to the brain during pregnancy or birth, or shortly after birth. While there is no single cause of CP, there are certain risk factors that increase its chances of occurring. These include premature birth, stroke, low birth weight, multiple births, oxygen loss during pregnancy or at birth, and blood type difference between the mother and the baby.

The condition is as unique as each person who lives with it. It can affect mobility, communication, sight, hearing, or behavior to varying degrees. While one person may limp slightly, another may be unable to feed or dress themselves.

To address the needs of those who have CP, CPARF funds research on detection and early intervention, chronic pain, technology, regenerative medicine, and genomics.

“Funds raised through STEPtember support our broad research and innovation efforts but each year we focus on a couple of specific projects,” says Michael. “This year’s focus is on technology and our disability technology start-up accelerator called Remarkable US.”

black and white photo of five people who are the STEPtember trainers. All have CP.who are the

This year’s STEPtember trainers.
(Photo courtesy CPARF)

Making Accessibility Accessible

Launched this year by CPARF in partnership with CP Alliance in Australia, Remarkable US helps develop start-ups that want to innovate in disability, aging, or health technology.

“For the 18 million people who have cerebral palsy and for the 20% of the world that uses assistive technology, Remarkable US is a game-changer,” says Michael.  “The technology is developed by or heavily involves people with disabilities every step of the way. It’s well made, thoughtful, affordable, and takes into consideration the needs of the community. You don’t get that if people with disabilities aren’t included.”

The work being done by Remarkable US isn’t just for those living with CP, according to Michael. “This technology will impact people with many different disabilities. For example, one can technology helps anyone who has mobility challenges, such as people who are aging and finding it more difficult to get around.”

Best of all, it won’t be out of reach financially, unlike many new disability tech innovations. “People don’t need another $40,000 product,” explains Michael. “We like to say we’re making accessibility accessible and that includes affordability.”

Learn more about cerebral palsy and STEPtember at Home | Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation – USA (cparf.org).

Top 10 Ways to Make Your Classroom More Accessible

August means the start of a new school year! For teachers, this is a perfect time to consider Universal Design for Learning (UDL). This approach structures learning to meet the needs of every student in the classroom.

Check out our top 10 suggestions to make the classroom a more inclusive environment.

  1. Allot time in class for students to work on homework assignments with other students.
  2. Freely offer and make available feedback during both in-class work and tests.
  3. Make sure that students have the time to complete tests in class, with enough extra to doublecheck work and make necessary adjustments from your feedback.
  4. Provide alternative options for lessons and content, like Khan Academy for math or Sparknotes for English and reading comprehension. Try to only use videos with captioning available; besides the obvious benefits for students with hearing issues, captioning aids in comprehension across the board for all students.
  5. Record lessons and make them available both as an audio file and as a transcription with a speech-to-text program for easy playback for students working at home.
  6. When teaching, consider providing a note-taking template or writing notes on the board. These notes should be simple for students to write down and understand both in and out of the classroom. (We suggest Cornell notes, which provide excellent structure and organization of information.)
  7. Allow students to choose where they sit. Only intervene when necessary to prevent disruptive behavior or to move students with specific accommodations to where they can best succeed. For example, some students may find that they work best when they have the freedom to get up, stand, stretch, or fidget. In that case, those students may find the back of the room most beneficial.
  8. Outside of covering the material, consider taking the time to help students learn effective study and note-taking methods to help them excel in all aspects of education.
  9. Place a weekly calendar in a high visibility point in the classroom with due dates and daily lesson plans. This will not only help students stay on track with homework but will also keep them from being surprised by a quiz, test, or other assignment.
  10. Physical accommodations are vital in reducing literal barriers to learning in the classroom. We recommend leaving wide walkways and paths that can accommodate a variety of mobility disabilities. Even if you don’t currently have any students with mobility disabilities, students may develop them or have parents that already do.

To learn more and get more helpful tips and info about UDL, we suggest checking out these websites:

Common Classroom Accommodations and Modifications | Understood

How Teachers Can Make Their Classrooms More Accessible for Students with Disabilities | American University

UDL: The UDL Guidelines (cast.org)

Three students write at their desks. The boy in the front is sitting in a wheelchair.

Then and Now: Celebrating 32 Years of the ADA

A child with a cognitive disability wearing a yellow shirt and glasses sitting next to an adult wearing a blue shirt in a classroom.

Imagine you are involved in an accident and need to temporarily use a walker. On the day you return to work, you must park far from the door and then negotiate several steps to get into the building. Once inside, you realize that there are no elevators to your office on the third floor. You call your supervisor, who tells you that if you can’t get to the third floor, that’s your problem. No, he can’t allow you to work remotely or arrange for an office on the first floor. Either get to the third floor or get fired.

Taken as a whole, this scenario might seem far-fetched. However, this was the reality for many people with disabilities before July 26, 1990, when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law.

Today, many of us take for granted the access and opportunities that the ADA made possible. They are such a part of our daily lives that we don’t think about them, but things have definitely changed! Let’s take a look at a few examples of what life was like before the ADA and what has happened since.

Then: People with disabilities could not legally request accommodations in the workplace.

Now: Title I of the ADA outlaws discriminatory practices against an individual who is “qualified to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation.” This applies to employers with 15 or more employees and includes employment practices such as hiring, pay, leave, benefits, and job assignments. Employers must also provide reasonable accommodations to ensure employees and applicants enjoy benefits and privileges equal to those without disabilities.

Then: Children with disabilities were not guaranteed access to public schools.

Now: Thanks to Title II of the ADA, in conjunction with two other landmark laws, children with disabilities are guaranteed comparable access to public education. Providing this access may include removing communication barriers by providing ASL interpreters for d/Deaf children or offering auxiliary aids like large print materials for students with low vision. Title II also ensures that all people with disabilities have access to services, programs, and activities provided by local and state governments.

Then: While staying in a hotel, a person with a mobility disability might not have been able to access the toilet in their room.

Now: Under Title III of the ADA, all private businesses that accommodate the public are required to provide equal access to the goods and services they provide. In the example of a hotel, they must offer rooms that provide accessibility features such as roll-in showers, wider doorways, and grab bars.

Then: Individuals who were d/Deaf or hard of hearing were unable to access important public service announcements (PSAs) – like emergency broadcasts – on television.

Now: Title IV of the ADA requires that closed captioning is provided for all PSAs that are partially or fully funded by the federal government. In addition, it required telephone companies to provide telephone relay services that allow those with hearing or speech disabilities to communicate over the phone through a teletypewriter (TTY).

Thanks to the ADA, our country and community have become more accessible for people with disabilities, but we still have work to do. If you would like to know more about your rights under the ADA or how you can help break down barriers to equal access, contact The Independence Center at 719-471-8181 or info@the-ic.org.

Join us in raising awareness about PTSD

Image with the words, June is PTSD awareness month not all wounds are visible

In 1943, General George S. Patton infamously assaulted two soldiers in separate incidents after visiting injured men in different Army hospitals. These soldiers drew Patton’s wrath because, instead of having physical injuries, they had “battle fatigue” or what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The assumption made by Patton and many others at the time was that PTSD wasn’t a “real” condition and the men were cowards.

Fortunately, since then, PTSD has become more understood and recognized by medical professionals and the public, although misconceptions and stigma still remain. To help educate the public about this mental health condition and available treatments, PTSD Awareness Month is observed each June.

What is PTSD?

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD “is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.” You can even be affected by hearing about an event or reading about it in the news.

Who does PTSD affect?

In the U.S., there are about 3 million cases of PTSD each year; about 7 to 9 percent of the population will have PTSD in their lifetime. It affects individuals of all ages and races, although some groups are more likely to experience PTSD including women, African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

While it’s normal to be upset, on edge, or have trouble sleeping after a traumatic event, most people start feeling better after a few weeks. However, if these feelings continue for many months, or if symptoms develop later on, an individual may have PTSD. These symptoms can include:

  • Reliving the event through intrusive memories, flashbacks, or nightmares.
  • Avoiding anything that might be a reminder of the trauma.
  • Increased anger, irritability, or difficulty sleeping or concentrating.

Left untreated, PTSD can be disruptive and interfere with day-to-day activities and functioning. Complex PTSD can also lead to thoughts of hopelessness, uselessness, and suicide.

Is PTSD treatable?

Yes, PTSD is treatable! If you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD, work closely with your health care provider to develop a treatment plan. The primary treatment is psychotherapy but may also include medications to help manage symptoms.

If you or someone you know is in immediate crisis brought on by PTSD or another mental health condition, these local resources are available to help:

Colorado Crisis Services Hotline
Call 844-493-8255, or text “TALK” to 38255
For more, see coloradocrisisservices.org

AspenPointe Crisis Stabilization Unit
Crisis line: 719-635-7000
Walk-in crisis stabilization unit: 115 S. Parkside Drive (where individuals may seek immediate help)

What can I do to spread awareness about PTSD?

Although we’ve come a long way since 1943, raising awareness and providing education about PTSD is still important. Begin by educating yourself and sharing facts with friends and family on social media and elsewhere. In addition, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers a calendar of ways to help spread the word throughout the month of June. You can view it at June PTSD Awareness Month Calendar (va.gov).

If you or someone you know has PTSD, The Independence Center can help connect you with resources and services in our community. Call us at 719-471-8181.

Expanding Digital Inclusion and Accessibility

Side view of captivated multiethnic young people smiling and looking at screen while browsing computer with headphones and sitting at desk in modern library

Just in time for Global Accessibility Awareness Day , The Independence Center (The IC) and Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD) have partnered to improve digital accessibility for people with disabilities. These upcoming improvements, made possible in part by a $25,000 grant from The Independence Center’s IC Fund, will help PPLD expand accessibility via their Library spaces, resources, and services.

The goal of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) is to shine a light on the need for digital access and inclusion for the one billion people worldwide living with a disability, according to its website. Digital accessibility can take the form of alt text on images for people who are blind, captioning for Deaf individuals, or simple, easy-to-understand navigation for those with cognitive disabilities.

“Individuals with disabilities deserve the same access to web-based services, content, and even gaming as someone without a disability,” said Deb Walker, director of strategic partnerships for The IC. “PPLD is such an important resource for people of all ages and abilities. The IC is proud to support them in their efforts to ensure their vision of being fully inclusive and accessible is realized.”

At PPLD, the accessibility improvements will include accessible game controllers and adaptive games kits, software updates to assistive technology computers, and more at select locations. For example, at Library 21c and other libraries in the northern part of El Paso County, a new FM system will help people hear better in noisy listening situations. It is typically used in conjunction with hearing aids but can also be used by those without. This will make a difference to students from the Colorado Springs School for the Deaf and Blind when touring the Library or using its makerspaces and studios.

“We’re grateful for the funding support from The Independence Center that will soon help us improve accessibility at multiple Library facilities in our service area,” said Teona Shainidze-Krebs, interim CEO and chief librarian for PPLD. “It’s important for our Library spaces, resources, and services to be welcoming and inclusive for all in the community.”