Category Archives: Newsletter Winter 2017

Making Voting Easier for People With Disabilities

People voting

People voting On November 7th and 8th, The Independence Center made history after opening as the first “Highly Accessible Polling Place” in Colorado Springs. Turnout was better than expected with close to 800 voters showing up to cast their ballots. There were scores of first time voters, including a group of students from the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind (CSDB). After learning that The Independence Center was going to be serving as a voting location this year, CSDB made the decision to bring a group of voting age students to The IC to participate in a training session by the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Office. Students were able to try out the accessible voting machines, before coming in on Election Day to vote.

First time voter Daniel Ratcliff, who works at The Independence Center and is blind, tells me that he was initially nervous going in to vote. When I ask him what he thought of the process, he tells me “It was well put together. It was very easy. I hadn’t even registered yet, and I was able to come into the room, register, and vote in the same place. And it only took me about 10 to 15 minutes, total.” He was especially happy that the voting machines were able to read his ballot in an audio format. Daniel says that voting is something he has wanted to do for years, and he’s happy to have finally been able to participate in the election process.

Here at The IC, it was great to see democracy in action, and it was especially remarkable to see such high participation among people with disabilities. According to the American Association of People with Disabilities, in the 2012 general election, people with disabilities voted 5.7% less than the general public. That is a huge discrepancy when considering the number of American’s with disabilities and the small margins that often determine the outcome of elections.

For people with disabilities, there are obstacles to voting that most people just aren’t aware of. For example, the lack of transportation to and from the polling place or the lack of polling workers trained in disability etiquette could mean the difference in whether or not someone votes. These factors are why it is so important to have highly accessible polling locations.

What comes next? Colorado Springs Municipal Elections will be held on April 4th and will provide another opportunity to have your voice heard. In some respects municipal elections are more important than both general and midterm elections, because the outcome directly impacts the community you live in. In this election, all City Council member District Seats will be on the ballot, and there will be a host of other matters that will be decided. So don’t miss this opportunity to help shape the direction of your community.

 

Emma Crawford Coffin Race

Each year, as locals and tourists join together for the annual Emma Crawford Coffin Races in Manitou Springs, people watch the spectacle as outlandishly-themed coffins race down Manitou Avenue. This year, The Independence Center’s coffin racing team chose The Purple People Eater for their theme to show their support for our community. Fringed with purple lace and sporting giant gnashing teeth, this year’s rolling coffin was a huge hit. The IC’s team had a great time, and spectators surely enjoyed the scene as nearly 100 festively decorated coffins took over the streets of Manitou for a day.

The IC staff walking in the parade

Marritta Coffee and Tim Gore at the Emma Crawford Coffin Race

The IC Coffin Race group

The IC Provides the Opportunity to Learn from Multiple Sclerosis Ambassador

Left to right: Tom Falconer, Ambassador for the Colorado-Wyoming Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society; Carol Johnson, Independent Living Specialist at The IC; Kevin Corrigan, Independent Living Specialist at The IC.

On October 26th, The Independence Center hosted a discussion on Multiple Sclerosis (MS) with Tom Falconer, Ambassador for the Colorado-Wyoming Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Falconer, whose wife has MS, has been the primary care giver for his wife for the last 27 years. During Falconer’s presentation, he discussed the symptoms, diagnosis, challenges, and long-term prognosis for people with MS. He explained that MS is by no means the end of life as you know it, and in fact can present relatively mild symptoms for some. For Falconer’s wife, though, the disease was debilitating. Within three year of her diagnosis, she was completely dependent on a wheel-chair for mobility.

 

When discussing Falconer’s presentation, Carol Johnson, Independent Living Specialist at The Independence Center, who has Multiple Sclerosis herself tells me “It helped me out tremendously, and everybody that went said it was just awesome.” She goes on to tell me that based on something Falconer said in his presentation, she was able to talk to her doctor and figure out that one of her medications was not working correctly.

Though much about MS is still unknown, one factor that all MS patients have in common is the degeneration of the myelin sheathing surrounding the nerves that transmit signals throughout the body. Falconer explained this complex process by comparing it to an electrical wire with worn out insulation. As the insulation becomes thinner and is eventually missing, the electricity is diverted from its intended location and terminates in the wrong place along the way. With MS, this results in mental degradation and the inability to effectively control the muscles. If you or a loved one has Multiple Sclerosis, or you would like to know more about this complex disease, The IC can help.

To learn about our MS support group go to http://bit.ly/mssupportgroup or contact Carol Johnson at 719-471-8181 x116.

Care Giver Tips – Winter Safety

Snowflake

Even though you care for others as a caregiver, there are things you can do to care for yourself that will keep you safe and help to make your job easier. Wintertime can be challenging to everyone, but when you’re regularly driving from location to location to care for consumers, the likelihood of running into trouble can be greater. Below is a short list of tips to help keep yourself safe and healthy during this long winter season.

  1. Combat depression caused by wintertime

    During the grey of winter, it can be an especially lonely time for many. Dangerous conditions can make it difficult to get around and sometimes isolation and frustration can lead to wintertime depression. Check in and visit with your loved ones more often during this time if possible. If not, phone calls and written letters are the next best thing. If distance is an issue, arrange for neighbors or friends to check in from time to time.

  2. Watch closely for icy surfaces and avoid falling

    Wearing non-skid soles or shoes with good traction will help prevent slipping, and removing shoes when first coming back indoors will prevent any ice from melting and causing dangerous conditions within the home.

     

  3. Wear good winter clothing and stay warm

    When temperatures start dipping low, so dips body temperature, and too much cold can lead to dangerous conditions like hypothermia or frostbite. Keep the temperature indoors at a comfortable and warm level, and utilize gloves, scarfs, warm socks, waterproof shoes, and a snug hat when outside.

  4. Eat a balanced and healthy diet

    Nutritional deficits such as Vitamin D deficiency are more common during the winter because people tend to eat a smaller variety of foods. It is recommended that seniors consume foods high in Vitamin D like milk, whole grain, and seafood like tuna or salmon.

  5. Use universal precautions and don’t forget about flu season

    Get your flu shot and make sure you wash your hands thoroughly. Protecting yourself will protect those you care about.

  6.  Make sure your vehicle is properly prepared for winter

    Maintaining wiper fluid and good tires can make all the difference when traveling in the unpredictable winter weather we have in The Springs. If the weather turns bad give yourself the extra time you need. It’s always better to be a few minutes early. Keep an emergency kit in your car just in case. Blankets, candles, water, snacks, and warm clothes are a must for travel!

  7.  Be aware of your surroundings

    Don’t leave your car running if you aren’t in it.

  8. Make sure someone knows where you are

    If someone knows where you are and when you should be home, they can send help in the event that you don’t make it home as planned.

The IC Receives National Recognition from FEMA

On September 16th, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) representative Carrie Roberts presented The Independence Center with the Outstanding Inclusive Initiative in Emergency Management Award. FEMA, a U.S. government agency best known for its disaster recovery efforts, also focuses on emergency preparedness training. The award was given to The IC for building eighteen Emergency Preparedness Kits to help people with disabilities during emergencies. The effort was led by The IC’s Emergency Preparedness department. Contractor John Monteith and Board Member Pat Going accepted the award for their part in helping to pull this effort together.

The kits were developed with the help of a grant from the Daniels Fund. Each kit contains mobility and communication devices, personal heating and cooling equipment, eating and drinking products, and other items needed to address a range of disability needs. After completion, the kits were donated to the American Red Cross and other local groups.

When disaster strikes, each of these kits will make a huge difference for individuals in need. So congratulations to The IC’s Emergency Preparedness Department and to everyone who made this award possible.

For more information about
The Independence Center’s
Emergency Preparedness Department
visit http://bit.ly theicemergencywb
or contact Dana Goldsmith
at 719-471-8181 x146.

 

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