Press Release: First Annual Briefing for State Legislators Held at The Independence Center

State Rep. Teri Carver speaks at the First Annual Legislative Breakfast at The Independence Center State Rep. Teri Carver speaks at the First Annual Legislative Breakfast at The Independence Center[/caption]
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO, September 29, 2015 – The first annual Legislative Breakfast occurred at The Independence Center (The IC) September 28, 2015. Six state legislators attended the briefing where eight specific issues faced by people with disabilities were presented and discussed. Presentations on each issue were given by staff members of The Independence Center. Discussions included input from staff, legislators and The IC board members. The briefing was moderated by Patricia Yeager, CEO of The IC.
Issues on the table were housing, transit, employment, community transitions (referring to transition out of nursing homes into independent living), home modifications/ assistive technology, emergency preparedness, rural issues and home health. Each issue was framed as an opportunity for the legislators to observe that cost savings to the state and independent living for those with disabilities are not mutually exclusive.
“If we can get in the door, if we can get on the bus, if employers will hire us, we will be taxpayers,” Patricia Yeager, CEO stated regarding the need for accessibility in buildings, transportation, and the private employment sector.
The briefing took on a notable tone of dialogue, with legislators often providing comments, asking questions, and providing status updates regarding certain issues. Current issues were raised in this manner such as the status of CDOT Bustang collaboration with El Paso County and the impending merger of the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

State Sen. Kent Lambert Speaks at the First Annual Legislative Breakfast at The IC

State Sen. Kent Lambert Speaks at the First Annual Legislative Breakfast at The IC

What became apparent during the briefing was the significant interrelationship between the issues, and that solutions to one issue may very well serve as solutions to other issues accordingly. For example, housing is interrelated with community transitions. Because the Pikes Peak region lacks affordable, accessible housing, oftentimes people with disabilities reside unnecessarily in nursing homes, costing the state thousands of dollars each month in Medicaid costs. Working to solve the problem of lack of affordable housing inventory will also help save money in Medicaid dollars to nursing homes.
The breakfast discussion remained largely non-political and incorporated facts as well as anecdotal stories. For instance, Rep. Terri Carver spoke of experience from her early work as a 19-year-old in home health care and Rep. Janak Joshi spoke of his experience as a physician treating patients with transportation needs in rural areas. The officials were clearly engaged, concerned, and expressed gratitude to The IC with an ovation at the conclusion.
State legislature attendees were Sen. Kent Lambert (R), Rep. Terri Carver (R), Rep. Janak Joshi (R), Rep. Pete Lee (D), Rep. Paul Lundeen (R) and Rep. Gordon Klingenshmitt (R).
Download PDF]]>

Gaining Independence

was able assist in the process of purchasing the van. “It’s hard to get around the city without an automobile and it doesn’t help when the transit is so limited about where it can go,” Frank said. “Just getting in and out of an automobile is hard enough doing it all day it really wears you out.” With this van Frank has gained a little of his independence back and improved his quality of life as well.  ]]>

Disability Law Series: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

At the Independence Center, part of our mission is to empower persons with disabilities and remove barriers, which prevent integration and equal opportunity. While it can be extremely difficult for adults with disabilities to feel integrated in their environment, it is arguably even more challenging for children with disabilities to feel included in the classroom. Educators and lawmakers are making strides to aid children with disabilities to not only succeed, but also feel included in the classroom setting.

A Little Background on IDEA:

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is federal statute that authorizes aid for the education of nearly 6.5 million children with disabilities in the United States. IDEA requires public schools to create an individualized education program (IEP) for any child that falls under the realm as disability as defined by IDEA.  In order to create an effective IEP, parents, teachers and other school staff must work together to examine the student’s unique needs.  The process of creating the IEP involves all of these individuals, along with the student at times, constructing a plan for the student’s educational need. 
IDEA was revised in 2004 and changed the focus of special education from providing separate services for students with disabilities to including more students in mainstream classrooms. Schools are required to place students in inclusive classrooms, when appropriate, in order to provide the social and academic benefits of taking part in the general curriculum. This inclusion can aid in a child’s feeling of acceptance and motivation for schoolwork.

Assistive Technology through IDEA:

The federal government recognized the importance of assistive technology for students when it revised the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1997 and again in 2004. IDEA states that school districts must consider assistive technology for any child in special education. That means that for any child receiving special education services, the educational team must ask if there is a device that will “increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities” of that child.
Raising awareness about creating a supportive and inclusive classroom environment is extremely vital. Not only will it improve a child’s performance and attitude toward education, but will keep their peers and teachers informed and open-minded.
What are your thoughts on this act and how it has affected our education system?


Third Annual Expo a Success

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) hosted the third annual Yes We C.A.N. (Cultural Awareness Network) Expo! at the Colorado Springs Event Center on June 7th. The expo showcased exhibitors and information on resources specific to Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Deaf-Blind needs and on-site demonstrations of products and services. In its third year, the expo made many changes from previous years.

“We were able to collaborate with Colorado Springs Silent Club this year and bring a movie in, which had 139 participants,” said Angela Tenorio, Deaf and Hard of Hearing program coordinator at The Independence Center. “We also expanded the expo and had an interrupter workshop, which is not something we had last year.” The growth of the expo this year was tremendous. Last year’s expo housed 47 tables while this year the expo boasted a notable 70 tables.  With this growth came more interaction within the community and opportunities. “We added an award ceremony in which we gave awards out to members of the community,” Tenorio continued. “We also gave out multiple door prizes this year to give out to consumers, which was nice.” Sponsors are one of the huge reasons these upgrades were made possible. AT&T, Meeting the Challenge, Memorial Hospital and Purple are among the top sponsors for the event. AT&T partnered with The Independence Center providing numerous opportunities, including three iPads used at the event and support independence at the Center. “Because of AT&T’s donation, we were able to celebrate people in the community by giving awards and a nice meal to the recipients, secure a larger venue and a movie screen for ‘Lake Windfall’,” said Tenorio. The many upgrades and changes, as well as the increase in sponsors and venders this year, were considered a great success for The Independence Center and DVR. This resource event has been a staple for the past three years and will continue to bring its services to the community. “The Independence Center and DVR are dedicated to the continuance of this event, which promote information, services and resources in our community to individuals who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing or Deaf-Blind,” said Tenorio.

What is Assistive Technology?

“I think (assistive technology) is definitely moving towards the (high) tech side of things,” said Paul Spotts, Assistive Technology Specialist for The Independence Center.
Image of a ReacherFor example, people with limited hand function may use a keyboard with large keys, people who are blind may use software that reads text on the screen, people with low vision may use software that enlarges screen content, people who are deaf may use a TTY (text telephone), or people with speech impairments may use a device that speaks out loud as they enter text via a keyboard. However, assistive technology doesn’t have to be high-tech to be effective.
“It can be low-tech too. There’s a back scratcher in the office I use to flip a switch. That’s assistive technology too,” said Spotts.
At The Independence Center, there are countless resources available to individuals with disabilities that need some type of assistance completing certain tasks that many take for granted. A key point that Spotts reiterates is that so many people are not aware of these resources and the fact that there is a wide variety of assistive technology out there for nearly any activity.
“(Assistive technology) can be used for so many different things. Driving a car, getting out of bed, picking up stuff, using the phone, riding a bike,” Spotts continued. “There’s just so much.”
Spotts’ position at The Independence Center ensures all consumers are aware of any technology equipment available to live an independent life. Spotts manages technology resources, performs demonstrations of equipment and provides education and training.
“I help others find things they need that would help them become more independent. Or if they have an idea we can search for it. Usually, someone says they want something and I find it and make sure it fits their needs,” said Spotts.
One common question Spotts receives from individuals is what type of software programs exists to help them utilize the computer for necessary tasks, like writing or typing. Many people do not Dragon Naturally Speaking Logorealize is the extensive capabilities some of this software has.
“(There are programs), like the Dragon Naturally Speaking software, that you talk and if you want to scan the web, you can tell it where you want to go and it does it. You can write with it, as you’re speaking it types. You can make corrections on the fly with it like ‘go back two spaces, get rid of that,’” said Spotts.
According to Spotts, with assistive technology, possibilities are endless.
“See what you can find to make yourself more independent, at living or at recreation too. You name it, it’s all there. Do you want to ride a bike and you’re in a wheelchair? You can ride a bike. It’s all out there,” Spotts said.
If you are in need of assistance in finding adaptive equipment to fulfill your needs, please contact Paul Spotts at The Independence Center at (719) 471-8181 ext.122. Also check out The Accessibility Store for a variety of assistive technology products: