Adaptive Bicycle Helps Calhan Man Move About in More Ways Than One

Ross Huddleson rides his new bicycle

Ross Huddleson rides his new bicycle

By Jessica Bolen


Ross Huddleson is a faithful consumer of The Independence Center’s east office located at the fairgrounds of Calhan. He lives with Parkinson’s Disease, a slowly progressive disorder of the nervous system that causes difficulty in regulating body movements. Because he is unable to drive and there is no bus service in Calhan, his only mode of transportation is walking. Walking in Calhan is no easy feat, partially due to it’s sprawled out, hilly country landscape; partially due to fluctuations in weather. Nevertheless, Ross takes care of his errands and visits by foot. He also visits his Independent Living Specialist, Fran Dorrance, at The IC office frequently, even in the snow.

Fran and Ross ran across a few articles that mentioned the healing benefits of bicycling for people with Parkinson’s. Intrigued, they decided to pursue obtaining a bicycle for Ross. The benefit of a bicycle would be two-fold: to help combat the degeneration of Parkinson’s and to help Ross with his transportation needs.

Fran set up Ross with Paul Spotts, Assistive Technology Specialist at The Independence Center, to help obtain funding for an adaptive bicycle and helmet. Funding was granted and Ross was fitted by Biketricity for a brand new adaptive trike with motor. The trike helps Ross maintain stability despite balance issues, while the motor is available for use when Ross tires.

Ross’ new mobility has freed him. “When he first got on it, we had to get in a car and chase him down.” Fran recalls with a laugh.
“When I go someplace now it doesn’t take me a half hour to get there,” Ross says. Both Fran and Ross also mention that Ross’ coordination of movements has improved after riding.

“We’ve all noticed a huge difference. We really have. The therapy part of the trike has been very beneficial,” Fran says as she smiles at Ross.
Consumers of The Independence Center with assistive technology needs are encouraged to contact Paul Spotts at (719) 471-8181 ext. 122.

The Independence Center Sends Delegates to NCIL Conference

Carrie Baatz (left) and Nina Kamekona (right) proudly display their handmade signs for the march to and rally at the Capitol on July 26, 2016.

Carrie Baatz (left) and Nina Kamekona (right) proudly display their handmade signs for the march to and rally at the Capitol on July 26, 2016.

By Jessica Bolen


The Independence Center sent two delegates to the National Centers for Independent Living (NCIL) Annual Conference on Independent Living that was held in Washington, D.C. July 24 – 28, 2016.

Carrie Baatz, Community Organizing Coordinator, and Nina Kamekona, Youth Advocate Specialist, attended the conference on behalf of The Independence Center. Nina attended on a youth scholarship awarded by NCIL that paid for her registration and up to $1,000 for travel expenses. Nina was one of only 10 youths around the country chosen for the scholarship.

Carrie attended workshops to equip her to effectively advocate for housing solutions in Colorado Springs. Nina attended workshops with the goal of learning how to strengthen youth programs at The IC. Both participated in a disability rights march and rally on the Capitol on the anniversary of the passage of the ADA on July 26, 2016.

Founded in 1982, the National Council on Independent Living is a national cross-disability, grassroots organization run by and for people with disabilities. It represents thousands of organizations that advocate for the civil rights of people with disabilities throughout the United States.

The Independence Center Brings Assistive Technology Home

The Independence Center is a great place to start if you or someone you know needs a home modification or assistive technology device. Paul Spotts, Independent Living Specialist (Assistive Technology Emphasis) can help you walk through the process of finding out if you are qualified to obtain funding for your home modification need. The qualification process can take anywhere from 2-8 months.

The most common needs Paul handles are ramps and bathroom modifications. Paul also handles Colorado’s Telecommunications Equipment Distribution Program (TEDP), which provides telecommunications equipment and accessories to qualified deaf, hard-of-hearing and deaf-blind residents of Colorado.

Unsure if you will qualify? Paul says, “You aren’t going to know unless you ask.” Set up an appointment with Paul to discuss your specific needs by calling (719) 471-8181 x 122.

Young Professional Aims for Nursing Career After Son Born With Disability

Amber with her son

Amber with her son

by Jess Bolen


Amber Turner, 35, originally studied health sciences and received a BA from UCCS. Her goal was to be a high school athletic director. The birth of her son in 2007 set her on a different course. Born with a rare genetic condition called Townes-Brocks syndrome, Cortland required round the clock care. Life began for Cortland in the NICU for 6 weeks, but soon transitioned to having Amber not only as his mother, but as his medical caregiver.

In 2009, Amber became a paid caregiver for her son through a Medicaid waiver program. This allowed her to receive reimbursement for the nursing care she was giving her son. Becoming a paid caregiver required taking CNA classes and getting certified as a CNA.
After working as a CNA caregiver to her son for seven years, Amber began working at The Independence Center as Home Health Assistant. Amber’s ambitions began to shift from health sciences to medical advocacy.

She has a vision to become a medical advocate for parents with children in NICU. She bases this on the need she felt when Cortland was in the NICU. What was particularly difficult for Amber during that time was the fact that she had to navigate Cortland’s medical diagnosis and care, while trying also to simply be Cortland’s mother. This sadly caused her to miss enjoying and recording several early milestones in her son’s life.

Of the chaotic time when Cortland was in NICU she said, “I unfortunately felt like I was on an island alone with Cortland” and her vision is to change this for anyone else who goes through a similar situation. Through tuition reimbursement at The Independence Center, she plans to pursue her nursing degree as a stepping stone into medical advocacy. Ultimately, her passion for caregiving for her son has given her a new direction for a fulfilling career.

Vietnam Veteran Gets Help at Home in Teller County

Vincent Thoms

Vincent Thoms

By Jessica Bolen


Vincent Thoms is a Vietnam veteran who loves the A-frame home he has in Teller County. The home he shared with his late wife has prominent west-facing windows for an unobstructed mountain view. He can tell you when and where you might find the legendary Cripple Creek donkey herd. However, it was starting to look for Vincent like remaining independent in his beloved home was at risk.

A widower who lives alone, Vincent requires the use of oxygen for a heart problem that probably started with exposure to Agent Orange during his service in Vietnam. He tires easily and doesn’t have the stamina to handle normal housework.

“It’s hard to admit you need help. For veterans, it is awful hard.” Thoms says, as he looks thoughtfully around the interior of his home.

Vincent received a flyer from The Independence Center notifying him of a new program designed to help veterans remain independent in their own homes as long as possible. The program, entitled Veteran in Charge, serves eligible veterans of any age who need assistance with bathing, dressing, transferring, yardwork, transportation, cooking, medication management, etc. Veteran in Charge is a Veteran Directed – Home and Community Based Services (VD-HCBS) program. It supplements—not replaces—Veterans Administration (VA) benefits.

“Veteran directed” means that the veteran self-directs (or appoints an authorized representative to direct) his or her own long-term supports and services by managing budget dollars, choosing which services best meet their needs, and hiring and supervising their own attendants. A contracted agency handles background checks and payroll for attendants.

“This program has been key to allowing Vincent to remain right where he wants, in his mountain home as a vital participant within his community,” Ashley Billington, Veteran Coach at the Independence Center, explains. “The best part is Vincent gets to determine how he spends his monthly budget. This is huge because Vincent is the expert on his own needs.”

To other veterans who have not yet asked for help, Thoms advises: “Get on this program. It will help you out because you’ll be able to stay in your own house and you’ll have someone come in and help you out. That means a whole heck of a lot. I lost my wife to cancer, so I am by myself. . . . Don’t be afraid to get help.”

Veterans of any age with a disability who need assistance to remain independent in their home are encouraged to start with their VA contact for an eligibility assessment. Veterans who are interested in the Veteran in Charge program may contact Ashley Billington at The Independence Center at (719) 476-3170.