Category Archives: Newsletter Fall 2017

Assistive Technology Opens Internet to Man With Quadriplegia

Tony Wilkens using Jouse 3 System

Tony Wilkens using Jouse 3 System

Tony Wilkens surfing the internet with his Jouse 3 system

In this day and age, it’s easy to take technology for granted. For people with some disabilities, however, assistive technology can mean the difference between being able to access a computer or not. Consider the ordinary computer mouse; it can be purchased for $30. For someone unable to use a handheld mouse, a mouth-controlled mouse can be substituted. The price tag on this: $1400. For most, that price point puts computer accessibility out of reach.

Tony Wilkins hasn’t been able to use a computer since he became a person with quadriplegia many years ago. It didn’t stop him from searching for a way to make the computer accessible to him.

When speaking about the Jouse 3, Tony says “I came across a video on YouTube of this guy who was a quadriplegic and he had this mouth-controlled joystick-operated USB mouse. When I saw the video it really inspired me. I knew I would be able to access a computer again. I thought ‘Wow. That would be awesome.’”

However, the price point on this particular piece of assistive technology kept it out of reach.

A grant from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation through an NCIL grant, allowed The Independence Center to purchase assistive devices for people with Spinal Cord Injuries.

As a member of the Spinal Cord Injury group at The Independence Center, Tony Wilkins was approached by Tim Ashley, Spinal Cord Injury Group facilitator. Wilkins qualified for grant monies and the question was which piece of assistive technology would be most suitable and helpful.

“The Jouse 3 was an obvious choice for him,” Ashley states. The Jouse 3 is a mouth-controlled, joystick operated USB mouse.

In one moment, Wilkins was shut out of all forms of computer communication and information. In the next moment, as if a lock had been opened, he was in—thanks to the Jouse 3 and the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation.

“It was so easy. Literally plug and play. As soon as we got it set up I started moving the mouth stick and the cursor started to move. It was really exciting,” Wilkins says. “I found an on-screen keyboard that I could use with the mouse. That’s when the internet opened up to me and I could go anywhere.”

To learn more about The IC’s support groups and services, call 719-471-8181, or visit our website.

CEO Corner

Patricia Yeager, CEO of The Independence Center

by Patricia Yeager, Ph.D., CEO


Patricia Yeager, CEO of The Independence CenterThere is a “whole lotta shakin going on” in healthcare and in The IC’s Home Health division.  In 2018 we will spend a great deal of time figuring out the impact of a change the state has initiated in our Region’s healthcare system for Medicaid and Medicare/Medicaid (Dually Eligible) recipients.  The state has put out a call for one organization (or collaboration) to provide both physical and mental health services in a coordinated system.  Currently, RCCO 7 or Community Health Partnerships provides that coordination for physical health but that is all going to change by July 1, 2018.  More to come on that significant change after the first of the year because the state has not formally announced the successful bidders on all 7 of our Medicaid/Medicare regions.

In our own Home Health Division we have a new Director/Administrator, Gayle Royal.  She comes from Tucson, most recently working with Brookdale Skilled Nursing  services.   She has quite a record working with Home Health agencies to help them streamline processes, set up new services and enhance the home health administrative team’s ability to work together. All of this leads to better and faster services to our consumers.  We are also to offer our services to new payers such as Managed Care companies, insurance agencies and even private pay.  We are working to increase skilled services under Medicaid (CNA level and above) and of course, maintaining the unskilled or In Home Support Services program. This program remains our most popular as it pays family members and friends of consumers that qualify.  People love the flexibility of it and some really like having agency support of their independence.

Another service we are planning is a “disrupter” service. We hope to disrupt people with disabilities transitioning from the Hospital to a nursing home if they can recover in their homes with plenty of medical and community services support.  We have put together a team of organizations and services called the Disability Network for Hospital to Home Transitions.  We are waiting for word from Memorial Hospital about a possible pilot so more to come on that!

Next year, The IC will intensify its advocacy efforts on creating disability friendly healthcare locations across the Pikes Peak region.  This includes having accessible, 508 compliant websites, alternatives to print information from your healthcare provider, including (and making easier to get) sign language interpreters at all appointments, disability culturally competent healthcare staff and… a network of accessible offices where there are hi/low exam tables, wheelchair weight scales, accessible diagnostic equipment and listening loops for persons who are hard of hearing. Everyone deserves a full and complete examination in the healthcare provider’s office!  That is our goal in 2018.

For now, though, did you know that Medicaid recipients can document and complain about lack of disability access by calling XXXXX at the current Regional Care Coordination Organization (here that is the Community Health Partnership organization)?  If you feel you did not get a complete exam or have issues/concerns about the healthcare you received, I encourage you to call that number.  It is anonymous and the RCCO staff will investigate. This is the first step in letting our medical establishment know that we want full examination just like everyone else.

Happy Holidays; they are fast approaching…and let 2018 be the year that you get a complete health exam!


ADA Celebrating Progress in the Pikes Peak Region

Panorama of ADA Celebration Luncheon

 Panorama of ADA Celebration LuncheonOn July 26th, The Independence Center celebrated the 27th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as the 30th anniversary of The Independence Center’s opening in Colorado Springs. An estimated 320 people attended the event and everyone seemed to have a great time. Employees from various departments at The IC spoke at length about their work with people with disabilities, and the impact that work has had on their consumers.

In attendance were Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, Manitou Springs Mayor Nicole Nicoletta, and several members of the Colorado Springs City Council. KRDO’s Jon Karroll emceed the event. In an award ceremony that paid tribute to organizations in the Pikes Peak region that have worked to progress the mission of the ADA, Mayor John Suthers presented awards to five deserving local organizations.

The IC is grateful for the contributions made in improving accessibility throughout the Pikes Peak region, and would like to say thank you to everyone who has supported The IC throughout the years. And special thanks to Doug Brauner of Holy Cross Lutheran Church and Matt Getze of UCCS, who shot the photos below.

Patricia Speaking at 2017 ADA Celebration Luncheon

Patricia Yeager, CEO of The Independence Center

Mayor John Suthers Presenting Award to Ben Bills

Mayor Suthers presenting award to Ben Bills for his work on Text to 911

The IC's Tim Ashley With Board Chair, Drew Wills

The IC’s Tim Ashley and Board Chair, Drew Wills



Making Communities Better for People with Disabilities

Courtney Stone and Jamie Muth at The Independence Center

Courtney Stone and Jamie Muth at The Independence Center

The IC’s Courtney Stone and Jamie Muth in front of El Paso County’s new voting machines

What is community organizing? The Community Organizing department here at The Independence Center serves a unique but important function in the journey to provide independence for our community and the consumers we serve. Courtney Stone, The IC’s Community Organizing Manager & Jamie Muth, the Community Advocacy Coordinator, work together to address issues that negatively impact the people with disabilities community. The hope is that by addressing these issues head on, they can help to remedy the negative impact on people within the community. A few examples of issues that they might address are access to homes, and transportation for people with disabilities.

The process, which requires a high level of participation from people within the community, involves empowering individuals to grow their skill sets, create plans, learn about dynamics of power, and to grow as leaders who can identify and define problems that need to be addressed within their communities. It’s extremely important that the people doing the organizing are themselves, directly impacted by the issues being addressed. This aspect of community organizing is different from systems advocacy, where people from the outside advocate on behalf of a group that is affected by an issue. Community organizing is generally recognized as getting its start during the worker’s rights and civil rights movements, but has really been around for much longer.

Community organizing is important because it gives people who are disempowered a voice. Everyone has a story to tell, and sharing that story can create dialog that eventually leads to meaningful change. Community organizing provides a link between communities and the systems that they have to live within. Power is created and change is more likely to occur when someone affected by an issue becomes the public face of that issue.

Unfortunately though, it can be difficult to get people involved. As Jamie told me, “It’s hard to expect people to be involved when they’ve been consistently ignored, or they’ve felt very defeated, or they feel that it’s not their place to do these things.” Plus, change happens slowly. This can be a major psychological challenge for anyone advocating for their community. It’s easy to feel defeated when you don’t see the resulting progress from your efforts, but change comes over time, like drops of water slowly carving a great canyon over the millennia.

At The Independence Center, the Community Organizing department has three main areas of focus, which include housing, transit, and training. Historically, housing and transit have made up the bulk of the efforts, but in the last year, advocacy training has become a larger part of the team’s focus. As part of the new focus, Courtney and Jamie are offering classes in Assertiveness Communication, Self-Advocacy, and Community Organizing. Between the three classes, community members can learn the skills necessary to address the issues facing their communities and affect positive change.

If you would like to learn more about the Community Organizing department or to sign up for training, please give The Independence Center a call at 719-471-8181 or visit our Community Organizing webpage.

Accessible Voting Award

Clerk and Recorder, Chuck Broerman, presents the Stars and Stripes award to Patricia Yeager

Clerk and Recorder, Chuck Broerman, presents the Stars and Stripes award to Patricia Yeager

Clerk and Recorder, Chuck Broerman, presents the Stars and Stripes award to Patricia Yeager

On September 21st, The Independence Center CEO, Patricia Yeager, was presented with the Stars and Stripe award from the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s office. The award stems from a partnership last year between the Clerk and Recorder’s office and The Independence Center (The IC) during the general election, where we came together to create Colorado’s first “Highly Accessible Polling Place”. During that election, nearly 800 people voted at The IC, many of whom were people with disabilities. Though all voting locations in El Paso County are accessible, The IC serves as a model of accessibility and was designed specifically with the needs of people with disabilities in mind. Many thanks to the Clerk and Recorder’s office for this important award, and for being a partner in the journey to make voting more accessible to the people with disabilities community. For more information on voting, visit our Election Resources webpage.

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