Category Archives: Newsletter Summer 2018

Seeing Life in a Whole New Light

Daniel with his eSight glasses

Imagine losing your eye sight at a young age and growing up without it, and how different your life might be. You would likely have a very different perspective of yourself and your relationship with the world around you. Now imagine what it might be like to regain your vision in an instant, after spending all of your adult life, and most of your childhood as a person experiencing blindness. That is exactly what happened to Daniel Ratcliff, The IC’s Independent Living Benefits Coordinator. I know, this sound like something out of a science fiction movie, and ten or twenty years ago, it would have been. But today, we’re living in a time where technological advancement is leading to many new and innovative assistive devices to help people with disabilities.

Daniel, who was diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease at a young age, began losing his vision as fatty deposits accumulated in his eyes, damaging the light sensitive structures, called macula, in the back of his eyes. This process eventually led to the total loss of Daniel’s central vision. Imagine holding a small circular plate in front of your face, where you can see everything around the plate, but nothing where the plate sits. This is what Daniel sees.

After learning about a new technology from a company called eSight that manufactures electronic glasses for people experiencing certain types of blindness, Daniel had the opportunity to give the e-glasses a try. If you haven’t seen the eSight glasses, they look like a thick band of plastic that sits on the face, similar to pair a of conventional glasses. They have forward looking cameras on the front, and screens

that sit in the back, in front of the wearers’ eyes. If you’re wondering what they look like, and are an old-school Star Trek fan, think of the glasses that Lieutenant La Forge wore. They are amazingly similar. The user can adjust the image on the screens to the position that best utilizes their field of vision, helping them to see the areas they are normally missing.

For Daniel, trying the glasses on for the first time was life changing. He was able to see the world in a whole new way. He actually had the opportunity to see his wife and children for the first time, and immediately knew that he had to have a pair of his own. Because of the significant expense of the glasses, buying them immediately just wasn’t an option. Over the next year, Daniel worked with The IC’s Assistive Technology department to apply for grants, and saved up his own money. Eventually, the money came through and Daniel was able to purchase a pair of eSight glasses for himself.

When the glasses finally came in, Daniel was in awe of the world around him. He tells me, “Now I can look into the eyes of my children, and the main time I wear them is when I’m helping my children with their homework.” For the first time, he could see the facial features and eye colors of people he had known for years. He was able to read street signs and actually see beyond the street block he was standing on, and commented that “It’s a very emotional experience, being able to see individual blades of grass, and to see birds for the first time.” The glasses have become a regular part of his daily routine and continue to serve him well as an assistive technology.

To learn more about assistive technology, contact The IC’s Assistive Technology Program at 719-476-3122, or by email at, or visit


Phot of Patricia Yeager in front of purple flowers

Patricia Yeager, Ph.D., CEO

Patricia Yeager, Ph.D., CEO

After providing in-home health services to persons with disabilities in the Pikes Peak region for over thirty years, we decided to stretch our reach further into healthcare. We asked ourselves a few questions. Is it accessible and useable by persons with a wide range of disabilities? Can we “disrupt” the pipeline of people with disabilities going into nursing homes after being in the hospital? Why don’t more people with disabilities use primary care anyway? That might be able to prevent a trip to the hospital or emergency room… What is it with healthcare and people with disabilities?

Over the years, we have conducted several focus groups in our community to learn about barriers. A consistent barrier we heard about was “I can’t get on the table, nor can I get weighed!” And we also heard “The medical staff are uncomfortable around me, and that makes me uncomfortable.” As a result, The IC Fund purchased a hi-low able with weight scale and other accessibility features for Mission Medical Center late last year. In fact, there is an article in this edition of the Independence Times on page 3 that talks about this collaboration. The IC Fund Committee saw what a difference the addition of this accessible table made and decided that we need more Medicaid primary care providers to be accessible for people with disabilities. So in June, we kicked off a campaign to purchase accessible exam tables, Hoyer-style lifts, and hearing loop system to install in primary care providers’ offices. As part of the process, ADA site audits and disability etiquette training will be provided to ensure better accessibility and understanding for people with disabilities. We asked people with disabilities who are on Medicaid or Medicare to nominate their primary care provider, who would receive this accessible exam room equipment. By the time you read this, the contest will be over, but you can to get an update. By the end of the year, we should have all awardees identified and best of all, a map of where all the accessible medical equipment is located. Check the page often and go get a complete health exam – please!

Our community transition program, the one that works to get people out of nursing homes, often finds that a fair number of people in nursing homes don’t really need to be there! The lack of affordable, accessible housing is such a problem, that it takes significant time for people to transition out. This started us thinking about how we might disrupt the flow of people going into nursing homes from the hospital in the first place. Often, it is a medication administration problem, or a cooking/cleaning problem, or an understanding/managing diabetes problem. No one should go to a nursing home for those reasons! So we put together the Hospital to Home pilot program to see if we could change this phenomenon. In May of this year, we started the pilot program at UC Health Memorial Hospital Central, and I am happy to report that we have redirected four people back home, who were on their way to the nursing home. With our Home Health staff, the Independent Living staff, and 4 to 5 community agencies or for-profit providers, we are able to support these individuals so they can recover at home. The IL staff provide a bridge for getting back into community life after their hospital stay.

Making Healthcare Accessible One Exam Table at a Time

Loretta Hausman trying out the UpScale exam table with inventor, Jeremy Polster

In partnership with The Independence Center, Mission Medical Center unveiled their first accessible exam table this past February. With help from The Independence Center’s IC Fund, Mission Medical was able to purchase this important piece of equipment, expanding desperately needed services to people with disabilities. According to Barb Cronin, Executive Director of Mission Medical Center, “This exam table opens Mission Medical’s services to a large portion of our community’s disabled population. This is an exciting collaboration between Mission Medical and The Independence Center.”

Very few people understand how difficult the process of transferring from a wheelchair to a standard exam table can be. Fear of falling or being dropped during transfer has led to a significant lack of care, and in too many cases, individuals with limited muscle control or dexterity, have been unable to receive proper exams or be weighed for years and even decades. The use of equipment such as accessible exam tables and Hoyer lifts for transfer, creates a safe and comfortable means for people with disabilities to receive the medical services they need, and address the related issues.

The UpScale exam table, built by Medical Accessibility, LLC, features a built in scale and measuring tape for taking important measurements, the ability to raise and lower to necessary transfer height, heavy duty grab bars, high weight capacity, and foot stirrups for pelvic exams, among other features.

Here at The IC, we’re actively advocating for medical providers to make accessible exam tables part of their standard equipment. Anyone would be infuriated if their doctor was unable to provide a comprehensive medical exam, but this is the normal reality for so many with disabilities. Please join with us in congratulating Mission Medical for recognizing the problem and working with The IC to expand medical access to all their patients. And please, if you have the opportunity, talk to your medical professional about the issue. Information is key, and if we all work together, we can get the message out and change the medical experience for our neighbors, friends, and family members with disabilities. To learn more about improving healthcare accessibility for people with disabilities, download our issue brief at

For more information on why accessibility is important in heathcare, please check out The IC’s video at

ITimes Article- ADA-Celebrating Veterans With Disabilities

2018 ADA Event Sponsors- Rocky Mountain Health Care, Relay Colorado, Kaiser Permanente, Cascade Investment Group, Denver Management Advisers, 1st Bank, Rocky Mountain ADA Center,

ADA Event Logo 2018


2018 ADA Event Sponsors- Rocky Mountain Health Care, Relay Colorado, Kaiser Permanente, Cascade Investment Group, Denver Management Advisers, 1st Bank, Rocky Mountain ADA Center,

2017 ADA Event Photos and 2018 ADA Event Sponsors

Each year, The Independence Center (The IC) hosts a luncheon to celebrate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The celebration is always held on the 26th of July, which coincides with the signing of this important legislation into law back in 1990. On that date, sitting with a group of people with disabilities, George H. W. Bush signed the ADA into law. In doing so, a legal framework was established to protect people with disabilities from discrimination in employment, ensuring that buildings and paths of travel are accessible, and working to make sure reasonable accommodations are available.

Each year, with the ADA as a central theme, we approach the celebration from a different angle, emphasizing a topic that is near and dear to our hearts here at The IC. Over the past two years, we’ve focused on Transit and then Progress in the Pikes Peak Region. This year, our emphasis is on Veterans with disabilities. The military is a huge part of our culture here, which gives a different flavor to Colorado Springs that you just don’t see in most American Cities. At The IC, we work with Veterans with disabilities all the time. I think this is something that most people aren’t aware of. But in reality, Vets make up a significant portion of the people we serve.

In this year’s celebration, several individuals who have been impacted by The IC will share their stories and speak about the programs that have helped them along the way. In addition, five deserving organizations will receive awards for their contributions to improving the lives of Veterans with disabilities in the Pikes Peak region.

ADA: Celebrating Veterans With Disabilities will be held at Hotel Eleganté on July 26th from 11:45AM to 1:00PM. If you would like more information about the event, visit the official event webpage at If you’re interested in attending next year’s ADA Celebration, keep an eye on our website in the spring of 2019 and check out our 2018 ADA Celebration photos and video. Under the “Get Involved” drop-down, you’ll find a link for next year’s event and photos and videos from the previous year.

The Art of Accessibility

Photos from Art of Accessibility (February 2, 2018)

Photos from Art of Accessibility (February 2, 2018) When The Independence Center’s Courtney Stone and Tim Gore approached others at The IC about participating in the “First Friday Downtown” art walk, it was a no brainer. What a great opportunity to showcase the artwork of individuals from within the people with disabilities community. Art provides a historical record of our past, drives curiosity, inspires innovation, and brings us together. And historically, a great number of famous artists have had disabilities. The presence of people with disabilities in the arts has a rich history. It was in this spirit, and in the hope of making art accessible to everyone, that we at The IC named our art exhibit “Art of Accessibility”.

The Art of Accessibility is about creating a deliberate space for artists with disabilities to be the source of knowledge, by sharing their stories, vision, and creations. From oil paintings and photography to dance and music, the diverse perspectives of people across and beyond disability are shared in this space. Many people see it simply as a lovely work of art. We see it as advocacy and a road to access and inclusion.

The IC has held Art of Accessibility twice as part of First Friday Downtown, and will most certainly continue to do so going forward. With a festive atmosphere and foodie oriented theme, it’s hard not to have a good time. The most recent event, the “Haute Chocolate Hop”, was fantastic, with significantly more visitors coming to The IC than the original event. There were numerous delicious desserts to be found including chocolate bacon brownies – yum. The number of artists displaying their artwork has increased as well. It was so great to see the halls and conference rooms at The IC lined with the work of such amazing artists. To the right, you can see a few of the photos from
Art of Accessibility.

This inclusion of diverse voice in the narrative of Colorado Springs & El Paso County nourishes and strengthens our community. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “We inhabit a universe that is characterized by diversity.” We all benefit from welcoming and engaging with the full breadth of visions from our community’s past, present, and future – because from difference comes innovation.

If you or someone you know is interested in displaying your artwork at our next Art of Accessibility event, contact The IC’s Nina Kamekona
at 719-476-3129 or by email at


Keep an eye out for our next Art of Accessibility event on September 7, 2018 on our Facebook page at

Submit your artwork and/or attend – hope to see you there!

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