DVR Public Stakeholder’s Meeting a Welcome Forum

DVRLeadership, staff and consumers of The Independence Center (The IC) as well as community members and DVR vendors attended a public stakeholder’s meeting hosted at The IC regarding the merge of Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) and Division of Vocational Rehab (DVR). CDLE and DVR leadership was well represented at the meeting on October 13. The two agencies have been working since March 2015 to make this merger happen as seamlessly as possible. The meeting was called to solicit public input regarding needs and services.

The Independence Center supports the merger. Patricia Yeager, CEO of The IC describes the goal of the merger as ultimately “a job for all who would need one,” while better using government resources to serve persons with and without disabilities looking for work. Under the new merger, if a person with a disability needs additional services centered around functional limitations, DVR staff can join the CDLE team to provide services for the person in the Workforce System. Previously, persons with disabilities were served completely separate from CDLE. In the case of disability rights, Yeager sees “separate services” as not equal.

Yeager addressed vision with panel members from CDLE and DVR. Yeager’s vision for persons with disabilities to be able to enter through the same door as everyone else at CDLE is a powerful place to start in accessibility and inclusion of DVR clients at CDLE. Ellen Golembek, Executive Director of the Department of Labor and Employment, agreed that CDLE shares that goal and cautioned it will take some time.

Ten public meetings were scheduled for statewide input and the meeting at The Independence Center was 8th of the 10 meetings. CDLE and DVR held the final wrap-up meeting in Denver on October 21 from 5:30 – 7:00 PM at DVR’s new space, 633 17th Street, Suite 1500, Denver, CO 80202. The CDLE and DVR summarized findings with a final report at this meeting.

First Annual Briefing for State Legislators Held at The Independence Center

State Rep. Teri Carver speaks at the First Annual Legislative Breakfast at The Independence Center

State Rep. Teri Carver speaks at the First Annual Legislative Breakfast at The Independence Center

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO, September 29, 2015 – The first annual Legislative Breakfast occurred at The Independence Center (The IC) September 28, 2015. Six state legislators attended the briefing where eight specific issues faced by people with disabilities were presented and discussed. Presentations on each issue were given by staff members of The Independence Center. Discussions included input from staff, legislators and The IC board members. The briefing was moderated by Patricia Yeager, CEO of The IC.

Issues on the table were housing, transit, employment, community transitions (referring to transition out of nursing homes into independent living), home modifications/ assistive technology, emergency preparedness, rural issues and home health. Each issue was framed as an opportunity for the legislators to observe that cost savings to the state and independent living for those with disabilities are not mutually exclusive.

“If we can get in the door, if we can get on the bus, if employers will hire us, we will be taxpayers,” Patricia Yeager, CEO stated regarding the need for accessibility in buildings, transportation, and the private employment sector.

The briefing took on a notable tone of dialogue, with legislators often providing comments, asking questions, and providing status updates regarding certain issues. Current issues were raised in this manner such as the status of CDOT Bustang collaboration with El Paso County and the impending merger of the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.


State Sen. Kent Lambert Speaks at the First Annual Legislative Breakfast at The IC

State Sen. Kent Lambert Speaks at the First Annual Legislative Breakfast at The IC

What became apparent during the briefing was the significant interrelationship between the issues, and that solutions to one issue may very well serve as solutions to other issues accordingly. For example, housing is interrelated with community transitions. Because the Pikes Peak region lacks affordable, accessible housing, oftentimes people with disabilities reside unnecessarily in nursing homes, costing the state thousands of dollars each month in Medicaid costs. Working to solve the problem of lack of affordable housing inventory will also help save money in Medicaid dollars to nursing homes.

The breakfast discussion remained largely non-political and incorporated facts as well as anecdotal stories. For instance, Rep. Terri Carver spoke of experience from her early work as a 19-year-old in home health care and Rep. Janak Joshi spoke of his experience as a physician treating patients with transportation needs in rural areas. The officials were clearly engaged, concerned, and expressed gratitude to The IC with an ovation at the conclusion.

State legislature attendees were Sen. Kent Lambert (R), Rep. Terri Carver (R), Rep. Janak Joshi (R), Rep. Pete Lee (D), Rep. Paul Lundeen (R) and Rep. Gordon Klingenshmitt (R).

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The Independence Center Awards $75,000 in Funding for Local Projects

A representative from Urban Gardens receives the grant check from an IC board member.

A representative from Urban Gardens receives the grant check from an IC board member.

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO, September 22, 2015 –The Independence Center (The IC) announces its second year of The IC Fund grant awards totaling nearly $75,000 for local community projects that benefit persons with disabilities. Checks will be awarded on Sept. 30, 2015 in a private ceremony with a light lunch being served in the Dart Room at The IC from 12:00 – 1:00 pm. Members of The IC board and committee members will be presenting checks. Members of the press are invited.
“It’s worth noting that the committee did not choose projects only from El Paso County. We are committed to serving people with disabilities in six counties in the Pikes Peak region and these awards affirm that commitment,” said Patricia Yeager, CEO at The IC.
Funding will benefit citizens of El Paso, Park, Kit Carson, Cheyenne, and Lincoln counties.


The 11 successful applicants and the amount of grant funds awarded are:
1. Rocky Mountain Rural Health (RMRH) (Fairplay): $5,000; Funds will pay for a needs assessment regarding the size and location of the Park County disabled population to address service gaps.
2. Prairie Family Center (PFC) (Burlington): $5,000; Funds will allow PFC to continue conducting several daily living skills classes for people with disabilities.
3. Pikes Peak Urban Gardens: $5,780; Funding will make the Harlan Wolfe Ranch accessible by improving pathways, building an accessible greenhouse, toolshed, picnic area and more.
4. Amblicab: $10,000; Funds expand the “Engage and Explore” program, by providing nearly 350 recreational trips for disabled adults and children living in the Pikes Peak Region. Update: Amblicab has changed their name to Envida.
5. Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind: $10,000; Grant will buy equipment and uniforms for the athletic department, including Special Olympics, goalball, volleyball and football teams.
6. Lincoln Community Hospital Care Center (Hugo): $10,000; Funding will provide an accessible door that will allow residents to access the new “Healing Garden” independently.
7. Community Transit Coalition, submitted by Women’s Resource Agency: $8,000; Funds an economic impact study to frame transit as not only a community need but an economic driver.
8. Colorado Springs Amateur Hockey Association (CSAHA): $5,000; Funds allow CSAHA Jr. Tigers Sled Hockey to purchase equipment to extend their program to more people with disabilities.
9. Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA)/ Colorado Springs Chapter: $10,000; Funds an educational outreach program and the extension of an incentive program for businesses that install a loop or other assistive listening device or captioning program.
10. Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation (Guffey): $6,830; Funds improving walkways between animals’ enclosures to make traversing easier for those with walkers, wheelchairs or crutches.
11. Educating Children of Color: $5,000; Grant will fund CART (Communication Access Real-time Translation), American Sign Language interpretation services, and tactile interpretation services for those who are deaf/blind at the 9th Annual Educating Children of Color Summit to be held at Colorado College on 1/16/16.

A representative from Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation expresses gratitude to The IC board and committee of The IC Fund.

A representative from Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation expresses gratitude to The IC board and committee of The IC Fund.

History of The IC Fund
The IC Fund was initially set up and invested in 2011. In 2013, The IC Fund committee went through training and worked with a foundation consultant to set up the rules. The first competition and awards totaling $75,000 occurred in 2014. Recipients in 2014 included Blue Star Recyclers, Friends of El Paso County Nature Center, Lake George Community Park and Colorado Veterans Resource Coalition. The process begins in June of each year, when letters of intent are submitted and ends in September with The IC board approvals. All nonprofit organizations in the six county Pikes Peak region are eligible to apply. A committee of eight community members with disabilities decides upon the proposals that will be sent to the board for approval.
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Tax Exempt Savings Account for People With Disabilities – ABLE Act

September 25, 2015

Tax Exempt Savings Account for People With Disabilities – ABLE Act


Do you qualify for the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act? Assistance_With_PaperworkThis Act was signed into law by President Obama to help people with disabilities become more independent by creating a savings plan. This improves the lives of people with disabilities since they were previously unable to save without sacrificing their benefits. To read more on if you qualify, please read our “Fast Facts” below or download Fast Facts – ABLE Act as a PDF. If you’d like further information, use the links below: College Savings Plans Network website ABLE Act explanation NDI ABLE Act Explanation ABLE Act Overview – NDSS  Before beneficiaries in Colorado are able to apply for these accounts, Colorado has to finish the legislation process to administer this program. They are using this survey to help guide the policies.


ABLE Act of 2014 & ABLE Accounts

Prepared by Jana Burke, Ph.D., President, Mariposa Professional Services President Barack Obama signed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act into law on December 19, 2014. The ABLE Act will allow some people with disabilities and their families the opportunity to create a tax-exempt savings account that can be used for disability-related expenses that will not affect eligibility for SSI, Medicaid, and other public benefits. Here are a few facts to know right now about the ABLE Act and ABLE accounts:

Who is eligible for an ABLE account?

In order to be eligible to open an ABLE account, you must:

  • Have a significant disability that meets SSI criteria regarding significant functional limitations
  • Have a condition that occurred before age 26.

If you are receiving SSI and/or SSDI, you are automatically eligible to open an ABLE account. If you don’t receive SSI and/or SSDI, but still had your disability before you turned 26, you are eligible to open an ABLE account if you provide documentation of your disability that indicates age of onset before the age of 26.

Who can open an ABLE account?

Accounts can be opened by an eligible person with a disability, family members, friends, or anyone else for the benefit of the person with a disability. Each eligible person with a disability is allowed one ABLE account that needs to be set up in the state where s/he resides.

How much can I deposit in my ABLE account?

At this time, you can deposit up to $14,000 per year into your ABLE account. This is the current annual gift-tax exemption. This amount will be adjusted each year for inflation.

Who can make deposits into my ABLE account?

Anyone can contribute to your account. Contributions are not tax deductible or tax free, but donors are exempt from the gift tax. Plus, any earnings on your ABLE account and withdrawals from your account for qualified disability expenses will be tax free.

Will my ABLE account savings impact my eligibility for SSI, SSDI, or Medicaid?

No. You can save up to $100,000 without risking eligibility for SSI, SSDI, and other government programs. You can keep your Medicaid coverage no matter how much money is in your account. However, if and when your ABLE account balance exceeds $100,000, you will be suspended from eligibility for SSI benefits and will no longer receive that monthly income.

What are qualified disability expenses?

You can pay for any disability-related expenses related to education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology and personal support services, health, prevention, and wellness, financial management and administrative services, legal fees, expenses for oversight and monitoring, funeral and burial expenses, and any other expenses approved by the IRS.

When can I open my ABLE account?

Before banks and other institutions can offer ABLE accounts to eligible people with disabilities and their families, the IRS needs to publish rules for implementing the ABLE Act. The program will be managed by the states, so each state will also need to put rules in place. Colorado has to finish the legislation process to administer this program. They are using this survey to help guide the policies.

What can I do until I can open my ABLE account?

ABLE accounts may offer a new financial planning option for you and your family. Here are a few things to do as you gear up to open your ABLE account:

  • Learn more about the ABLE Act and ABLE accounts. Get online and do some research!
  • Make a list of your short and longer term needs to set aside funds into an ABLE account. Do you need to put away money for renovations to make your house more accessible? Do you need new hearing aids? Do you want to save up to buy an accessible vehicle? Come up with a budget for disability-related expenses you want to start saving for.
  • Make sure your state is moving forward to establish an ABLE account program.
  • Contact the Governor’s office and your state legislators to let them know the importance of the ABLE account program to people with disabilities. Ask them to keep you informed on the progress of getting the program set up.
  • Start saving now! Invite family and friends to contribute to your savings account too. Any money you save in 2015 can be moved into your ABLE account when the state gets the program going later this year.

The IC’s ADA Celebration 2015 Award Winners

The IC’s 2015 ADA Celebration
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was established in 1990 and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, in order to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities and ensure equal access, opportunities, and participation throughout America. 2015 marks the 25th Anniversary of the historical signing of the ADA.
The Independence Center came together with the local community to acknowledge and celebrate this amazing achievement for American Civil Rights. The ADA Celebration honored Colorado and El Paso County community companies, organizations, and government entities that have made strides to help the Pikes Peak Region become more inclusive for people with disabilities. It also served to communicate the importance of these basic human rights and the future direction for The IC’s advocacy issues.
A special thanks goes to El Paso County AND the City of Colorado Springs for having proclamations in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, stating their continued commitment to complying with, and furthering, the Act. Merv Bennett, President of the Colorado Springs City Council, read the City’s proclamation at our annual event. And, Amy Lathen, El Paso County Commissioner, was representing at our annual event as well to represent the Board of County Commissioners’ ADA proclamation.

Award Winners

In addition, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, The IC presented awards to the City of Colorado Springs’ ADA Office, El Paso County’s ADA Office, Accessible Communities Today (ACT) coalition, First Congregational Church of Colorado Springs, and Discount Tire Store at Woodmen Road and Powers Boulevard for complying with and furthering acceptance of the ADA. Read below for information about why each was honored with this award.

  • Church

    First Congregational Church Awardees

    First Congregational Church of Colorado Springs was recognized for using capital campaign funds to add an elevator to the church, which also happens to be one of the oldest church buildings in the city, making these type of changes especially difficult. This elevator has allowed wheelchair access to areas of the building that were inaccessible before. Now, the entire building is 95% accessible. And what makes this even more special is that churches are exempt from having to comply with the ADA! Present at our annual event to accept the award were Reverend Dr. Benjamin Broadbent and Siri Everett.

  • City

    City of Colorado Springs Awardees

    The City of Colorado Springs was recognized for hiring an ADA Coordinator, Michael Killebrew, in March 2014. The City’s ADA office has also been installing a LOOP system in the City Council chambers for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, conducting a self-evaluation of city operations, and has become one of the first cities west of the Mississippi to update the iconic person in the wheelchair symbol to a more action-oriented figure. Accepting the award were Michael Killebrew, Title II ADA Coordinator and Brett Waters, Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Director.

  • Church

    Discount Tire Store at Woodmen & Powers

    Discount Tire Store at Woodmen Road and Powers Boulevard was recognized for acting quickly to an inaccessibility complaint. Within a three-week time span, Discount Tire Store had a transformer relocated, the inaccessible stairs and curbs were jack hammered out and replaced with a beautiful accessible entrance, and then they poured a circular driveway to allow for easier access to the building! Accepting the award at our annual event were Pat Cary, Regional Maintenance Manager and Jim Douglas, Store Manager.

  • El Paso County was also recognized for their efforts to further the ADA. Those present to accept the award were Rob Hernandez, ADA Coordinator; Jim Reid, Executive Director Public Services Department; and Amy Lathen, El Paso County Commissioner. Among their accomplishments are:

    El Paso County recipients

    • Hired an ADA Coordinator, Rob Hernandez, in August 2014
    • Added 3 videophones at the Criminal Justice Center and 6 more are in process for installation at 6 other county locations
    • Established the El Paso County ADA Advisory Committee which includes 10 county members and 5 opinion leader members from the community, such as Accessible Communities Today (ACT) coalition and The Independence Center
    • Completed a wheelchair accessible viewing area and other significant accessibility upgrades at the El Paso County Fairgrounds
    • Instituted an online ADA grievance procedure

ACT Members accepting their award

  • Accessible Communities Today (ACT) coalition were recognized for their work with local businesses, agencies, and government entities to help collaborate, educate, and bring awareness to others on issues surrounding the Americans With Disabilities Act. Present to accept the award were Sharon King, John Monteith, Charles (Rick) Orthwein, and Dave May.

Video of The IC’s 2015 ADA Celebration


The Independence Center Serves Up Accessibility Training for Colorado Red Cross

Pat Going leading the training class for The Red Cross Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities. At what kind of training would you look around the room and see county officials, disability training consultants, service dogs, Red Cross district officials, and people with disabilities? You would be at a special training—the first of its kind in Colorado actually—an emergency preparedness training for Colorado Red Cross chapters emphasizing accessibility for persons with disability. This groundbreaking training was put on by The Independence Center, the hub of the disability community in the Pikes Peak region.

The Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires brought to the forefront the need for an understanding of accessibility for persons with disabilities. The Pikes Peak region began to understand that when persons with disabilities are evacuated from danger zones, significant accessibility and etiquette issues arise.

The Independence Center has risen to the occasion to educate local officials and Red Cross staff with help from two grants, one from Disability-Benefit Support Contract Committee (DBSCC) and one from The Daniels Fund. The two grants worked synergistically; the DBSCC grant funded the production of a training video and The Daniels Fund grant paid for the creation of Emergency Preparedness Disability Kits to be given to all the Colorado Red Cross chapters.

The first screening of the new video was held during the training for the Southeastern Colorado Red Cross on September 9, 2015. Trainings for the other Red Cross chapters will follow. At the September 9th training, local Red Cross staff were presented with the first Emergency Preparedness Disability Kit, a kit valued at $1,200 worth of accessibility items that may be needed at shelters holding evacuees.

Persons with disabilities who are concerned about their own personal level of preparedness for an emergency can download a “Personal Emergency Preparedness Workbook” from The Independence Center free of charge here.

The IC Helps with Video Phone Testing for El Paso County

Mathew Ruggles using the video phone at The El Paso County Citizens Service Center.

Mathew Ruggles using the video phone at The El Paso County Citizens Service Center.

The Deaf & Hard of Hearing program of The Independence Center is involved in making telephone communication more accessible to the deaf community in the Pikes Peak Region. Matthew Ruggles and Angela Tenorio, deaf and hard of hearing program staff at The IC, helped with testing the new video phones at the Pikes Peak Workforce Center in August 2015. Ruggles explained that the video phones help people with auditory disabilities have equal access to telephone communication. Video phones provide the ability for a person who is deaf to connect with a sign language interpreter via video. The interpreter then translates sign language to spoken voice to the person on the other end of the line. Phones are being installed in other El Paso County buildings such as the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center, the Citizens Service Center, and Department of Motor Vehicle locations. The IC continues to advocate for civil and governmental accountability with ADA compliance and is committed to providing expertise with disability access concerns when invited to assist by civil or governmental entities.

The IC’s ADA Celebration

The IC is celebrating the 25th anniversary of The Americans with Disabilities Act! This historic enactment has changed the lives of many Americans, allowing for better access and independence across the country. The Americans with Disabilities Act not only opened the door to greater opportunities, but also gave the nation a greater understanding and awareness concerning people with disabilities. We’re appreciative of all the support our sponsors and the community have given The IC so we can celebrate this anniversary on July 27, 2015 at Hotel Elegante in Colorado Springs. We look forward to our continued work together so that every person in our community has the opportunity to live an independent life, shaped by their desires.  

THANK YOU To Our Sponsors

AT&T Relay Captioncall
Cascade Investment Group Central Bankcorp Insurance
Denver Management Advisors, Inc. Health South
Kelley Vivian Meeting the Challenge
Melat, Pressman and Higbie NAMI
Network Insurance Services Rocky Mountain Healthcare Services
The Arc United Healthcare
US Bank Yellow Cab


Reinterpreting Beauty

Positive Exposure, a non-profit organization founded in 1997 that uses art to transform public perceptions of people living with genetic, physical and cognitive disabilities or differences. His work has been published in many newspapers, magazines and journals.

Guidotti began this journey in to celebrating the beauty of human diversity when he examined images in medical textbooks that depicted disabilities in an unfavorable way.  These images changed his life. Since then, he has devoted his talent to change people’s perception of beauty and idea of those individuals who society sees as “different.”

“It’s terrifying,” Guidotti said, “There’s other ways to present this. I’ve spoken to so many genetic counselors who have a family in front of them and say ‘Ok, this is what your daughter is going to have. Read this.’ And they cover up the photograph because it will freak the family right out.. There’s got be something else we can do. There’s got be another way to present that information to that family.”

You can see more of Guidotti’s pictures at the Positive Exposure web site.