Vincent Thoms is a Vietnam veteran who loves the A-frame home he has in Teller County. 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 was starting to look for Vincent like remaining independent in his beloved home was at risk.
“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.
After receiving a flyer from the Independence Center, Vincent learned about a new program designed to help veterans remain independent in their own homes as long as possible. The program, called Veteran in Charge, serves eligible veterans who need assistance with bathing, dr
essing, transferring, yardwork, transportation, cooking, medication management, etc. Veteran in Charge is a Veteran Directed – Home and Community Based Services (VD-HCBS) program that supplements, not replaces, Veterans Administration (VA) benefits.
“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.”
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.
Have you seen a new curb cut or curb ramp in your neighborhood recently? If not, and you have sidewalks, those accessible path of travel tools are coming your way! Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Mayor John Suthers speak at two different events about sidewalks and curb ramps, as the city calls them. Having well-constructed curb ramps and passable (not to mention smooth) sidewalks are both critical to the independence of people with disabilities and seniors who have mobility and/or balance issues.
A small community organizing group, ACT or Access the Community Today had identified a large number of inaccessible sidewalks and curb ramps, and brought those to the attention of The Gazette last year. A front page article featured Sharon King, a wheelchair user, trying to navigate a crumbling curb ramp and potholed street. It appears that the City had not been following the law over the years, which states that when streets are repaved, curb ramps must be added or repaired if existing ramps are in place and need it. Missing curb ramps should be added at intersections where only one or two exist. In short, make the public path of travel usable by all people as roadways are repaved or added.
What a difference a year, a vote, and advocacy makes! With the passage of 2C, the voters of Colorado Springs sent a message to improve our roadways. One of the provisions of 2C was that 45% of the funds were to be used for improvement or installation of sidewalks, curb and curb ramps, as well as gutters. This equals about $25 million a year for the next five years to be spent on these items. Using just 2C funds, Mayor Suthers stated at our ADA Celebration in July, that 114 new curb ramps had been created, 99 curb ramps repaired, and 3 miles of sidewalk laid. In addition, through a “variety of funding sources”, more than $4 million was spent in 2015 that resulted in the construction of more than 500 new or reconstructed ramps and 10 miles of sidewalk.
I sure hope your personal path of travel through this city is getting better! A tip of the hat, the flash of a wheel, and the bark of a guide dog to Mayor Suthers and City staff in every department for their commitment to improving the walkability of our city for everyone, including the disability and senior communities.
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