Press Release: The IC Teams Up with American Red Cross for Winter Weather Emergency Training for Local Residents

th St, Calhan, CO 80808 on January 29, 2016 from 1:00–2:00 PM. The presentations are free to residents. Residents who want to attend are encouraged to RSVP to About The Independence Center The Independence Center is a local nonprofit organization that provides traditional and self-directed home health care, independent living, and advocacy services for people with disabilities.  These services range from providing peer support, skills classes, and employment assistance to individual and systems advocacy. In addition, The IC runs a Certified Nurse Aide school to equip the area with qualified CNAs. The IC’s mission is to work with people with disabilities, their families, and the community to create independence so all may thrive.]]>

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

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).

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The Independence Center Serves Up Accessibility Training for Colorado Red Cross

Pat Going leading the training class for The Red Cross Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities. At what kind of training would you look around the room and see county officials, disability training consultants, service dogs, Red Cross district officials, and people with disabilities? You would be at a special training—the first of its kind in Colorado actually—an emergency preparedness training for Colorado Red Cross chapters emphasizing accessibility for persons with disability. This groundbreaking training was put on by The Independence Center, the hub of the disability community in the Pikes Peak region.

The Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires brought to the forefront the need for an understanding of accessibility for persons with disabilities. The Pikes Peak region began to understand that when persons with disabilities are evacuated from danger zones, significant accessibility and etiquette issues arise.

The Independence Center has risen to the occasion to educate local officials and Red Cross staff with help from two grants, one from Disability-Benefit Support Contract Committee (DBSCC) and one from The Daniels Fund. The two grants worked synergistically; the DBSCC grant funded the production of a training video and The Daniels Fund grant paid for the creation of Emergency Preparedness Disability Kits to be given to all the Colorado Red Cross chapters.

The first screening of the new video was held during the training for the Southeastern Colorado Red Cross on September 9, 2015. Trainings for the other Red Cross chapters will follow. At the September 9th training, local Red Cross staff were presented with the first Emergency Preparedness Disability Kit, a kit valued at $1,200 worth of accessibility items that may be needed at shelters holding evacuees.

Persons with disabilities who are concerned about their own personal level of preparedness for an emergency can download a “Personal Emergency Preparedness Workbook” from The Independence Center free of charge here.

Are Cell Phones Reliable in an Emergency?

  • For seniors and those of us who are hard of hearing, the landline’s ring and voice amplification system are far superior to cell phone technology. Premature pushing of wireless service may create a large group of people who are left outside of any communications system.
  • The connection between the 911 System and the new technology requires improvement in order for everyone to receive reliable disaster alerts.  When buying a VOIP system, people are advised to have an alternative to make 911 calls.  Taking away the maintenance funding for landlines (high cost fund) is taking away that backup method.
  • If the PUC regulates 911 Service but not the communications system, how will it make the communications system responsive to 911?
  • Deregulating all communications services leaves Colorado without aggregated complaint data; data the State legislature needs to implement the “claw-back” system for re-regulation. Relying on the Federal Communications Commission or the state Attorney General to resolve complaints at the local level is not efficient or effective.
  • What happens to the Disabled Telephone Users Fund (a five cent per line monthly charge) when landlines disappear?  This fund supports the federally mandated Relay Service for deaf telephone users and the Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and Telephone Reading Service for the blind.  How will these vital communication services continue?
  • Let’s not abandon seniors and people who are hard of hearing or Deaf in the transition to wireless service, which may not reliable in an emergency. Telecommunication companies need to address our issues before such a transition takes place and there should be local oversight. After deregulating the communications system, these companies will have no incentive to maintain anything but the means to make a profit at the expense of safety. Patricia Yeager, Ph.D. Chief Executive Officer The Independence Center]]>

    Waldo Canyon Fire Forum Report Released

    The Independence Center and The Rocky Mountain ADA Center Release Waldo Canyon Fire Forum Report

    Colorado Springs, Colo., Nov. 2, 2012 – The Independence Center (The IC) and the Rocky Mountain ADA Center (ADA Center) released their After Action Report, a report of key findings from the Waldo Canyon public forum co-hosted by the organizations on Aug. 30, 2012.

    Those who attended the forum included officials from the Colorado Springs Office of Emergency Management Division, the Manitou Springs Police Department and the Red Cross, and people with disabilities and their families who were affected by the fire. The goal of the forum was to collect information from people with disabilities and their families to help emergency response teams improve their existing processes and update their current emergency plans to better address the needs of people with disabilities.

    “We are very pleased with this report,” said Patricia Yeager, CEO of The Independence Center. “It is a valuable tool that the city and county can use to make their emergency plans more comprehensive. It is information we didn’t have before, first-hand testimony on what worked and didn’t for people in our community with various disabilities.”

    The After Action Report summarizes the views shared by the public at the forum and includes suggestions for emergency planners around the issues of communication, transportation and shelter access. The report also highlights the need for individuals and their families to create an emergency plan for themselves.

    “One of the primary messages shared by people at the forum is that few individuals are personally prepared for disaster,” said Jana Burke, project director of the ADA Center. “The Waldo Canyon event reminds all of us, with and without disabilities, that we need to be prepared for emergencies before they occur. People with disabilities need to self-advocate, make sure they are prepared and have their personal emergency plan and communication plans put together.”

    The IC and the ADA Center plan to utilize this informative report in various capacities, including:

    • Working with local Deaf and Hard of Hearing advocates to share the report with local TV stations so they can take these findings into consideration when determining how to best make their broadcasts accessible to persons with disabilities during an emergency.
    • Working with the Red Cross to identify shelter locations that are accessible and welcoming to all.
    • Working with first responders to address the needs of people with a wide variety of disabilities when it comes to emergency response and evacuation procedures.

    “We are not here to blame anyone,” Yeager points out.  “We simply want to work with city and county planners to develop more inclusive plans so that we can ensure the needs of all of our community members are met in future disasters.”

    The IC and ADA Center have already begun working with local emergency operations personnel to integrate these findings in city and county emergency operations plans. The ADA Center is working with El Paso County review their emergency plan for ADA compliance. After the review is completed, the County has indicated they will work with members of the disability community to address any accessibility barriers identified in the plan.

    Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and Why They Matter

    Below are some FAQ’s about WEA that may clear up any confusion or doubt.
    1. Why are Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) important to me?
    Alerts received at the right time can help keep you safe during an emergency. With WEA, warnings can be sent to your mobile device when you may be in harm’s way, without need to download an app or subscribe to a service.
    2. What are WEA messages?
    Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are emergency messages sent by authorized government alerting authorities through your mobile carrier.
    3. What types of alerts will I receive?

    • Extreme weather, and other threatening emergencies in your area
    • AMBER Alerts
    • Presidential Alerts during a national emergency

     4. What does a WEA message look like?
    WEA will look like a text message.  The WEA message will show the type and time of the alert, any action you should take, and the agency issuing the alert.  The message will be no more than 90 characters.
    5. How will I know the difference between WEA and a regular text message?
    WEA messages include a special tone and vibration, both repeated twice.
    6. What types of WEA messages will the National Weather Service send?

    •  Tsunami Warnings
    •  Tornado and Flash Flood Warnings
    •  Hurricane, Typhoon, Dust Storm and Extreme Wind Warnings
    •  Blizzard, Ice Storm, and Lake Effect Snow Warnings

    7. What are AMBER Alerts?
    AMBER Alerts are urgent bulletins issued in the most serious child-abduction cases.  The America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) Alert Program is a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies, and the wireless industry.
    8. Who will send WEAs to issue AMBER Alerts?
    The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), in coordination with State and Local public safety officials, sends out AMBER Wireless Emergency Alerts through IPAWS.
    9. What should I do when I receive a WEA message?
    Follow any action advised by the message.  Seek more details from local media or authorities.
    10. Will I receive a WEA message if I’m visiting an area where I don’t live, or outside the area where my phone is registered?
    Yes, if you have a WEA-capable phone and your wireless carrier participates in the program.  (More than 100 carriers, including all of the largest carriers, do.)
    11. What if I travel into a threat area after a WEA message is already sent?
    If you travel into a threat area after an alert is first sent, your WEA-capable device will receive the message when you enter the area.
    12. When will I start receiving WEA messages?
    It depends.  WEA capabilities were available beginning in April 2012, but many mobile devices, especially older ones, are not WEA-capable.  When you buy a new mobile device, it probably will be able to receive WEA messages.
    13. Is this the same service public safety agencies have asked the public to register for?
    No, but they are complementary.  Local agencies may have asked you to sign up to receive telephone calls, text messages, or emails.  Those messages often include specific details about a critical event.  WEAs are very short messages designed to get your attention in a critical situation. They may not give all the details you receive from other notification services.
    14. Will I be charged for receiving WEA messages?
    No.  This service is offered for free by wireless carriers.  WEA messages will not count towards texting limits on your wireless plan.
    15. Does WEA know where I am? Is it tracking me?
    No. Just like emergency weather alerts you see on local TV, WEAs are broadcast from area cell towers to mobile devices in the area.  Every WEA-capable phone within range receives the message, just like TV that shows the emergency weather alert if it is turned on.  But, the TV stations, like WEA, don’t know exactly who is tuned in.
    16. Will a WEA message interrupt my phone conversations?
    No, the alert will be delayed until you finish your call.
    17. How often will I receive WEA messages?
    You may get very few WEA messages, or you may receive frequent messages when conditions change during an emergency.  The number of messages depends on the number of imminent threats to life or property in your area.
    18. If, during an emergency, I can’t make or receive calls or text messages due to network congestion, will I still be able to receive a WEA message?
    Yes, WEA messages are not affected by network congestion.
    19. What if I don’t want to receive WEA messages?
    You can opt-out of receiving WEA messages for imminent threats and AMBER alerts, but not for Presidential messages.  To opt out, adjust settings on your mobile device.
    20. How will I receive alerts if I don’t have a WEA-capable device?
    WEA is only one of the ways you receive emergency alerts.  Other sources include NOAA Weather Radio, news broadcasts, the Emergency Alert System on radio and TV programs, outdoor sirens, and other alerting methods offered by local and state public safety agencies.



    Floods Bring Coordination Between FEMA and Disability Organizations

    “Communication is key,” said DeSutter. “What we learned from this experience is how to quickly align centers for independent living and disability agencies at large, while communicating within a region to immediately target real-time accessibility barriers. We also want to provide solutions during and after an active emergency incident.”

    Independent Living Centers across Colorado, and numerous other disability-focused organizations, have decided to take this model of synchronization and examine what went well, areas that need improvement, and how to better prepare for future incidents affecting populations with disabilities.

    “No one ever wants to see the state they live in be affected by any type of natural disaster, but it’s important to be prepared,” said DeSutter. “Our model centers around communication and is designed to support people with disabilities and make sure they’re informed.”

    The FEMA Disability Integration and Coordination office serves the sole purpose of integrating and coordinating emergency preparedness, response and recovery for children and adults with disabilities and others with access and functional needs before, during and after a disaster.


    Preparedness for Individuals with Access and Functional Needs

    How to prepare if you or someone in your life has access or functional needs

    September is National Preparedness Month (NPM). It is a time to prepare yourself and those in your care for emergencies and disasters. This September, please prepare and plan in the event you must go for three days without electricity, water service, and access to a supermarket, or local services for several days. Just follow these four steps:

    • Be Informed
    • Make a Plan
    • Build a Kit
    • Get Involved

    If you or someone close to you has a disability or other access or functional needs, you may have to take additional steps to protect yourself and your family. Each person’s needs and abilities are unique, but every individual can take important steps to prepare for all kinds of emergencies and put plans in place. By evaluating your own personal needs and making an emergency plan, you can be better prepared for any situation.

    • Consider how a disaster might affect your individual needs or the needs of someone you care for
    • It’s possible that you will not have access to a medical facility or even a drugstore. Plan to make it on your own, at least for a period of time.
    • Identify what kind of resources you use on a daily basis and what you might do if they are limited or not available.
    • Build a Kit with your unique consideration in mind. What do you need to maintain your health, safety and independence?

    For more information, check out:


    The Six P's of Evacuation

    In the event of an immediate evacuation in any type of emergency or disaster, here are the six “P’s” to keep in mind:
    1. People and Pets
    2. Papers, phone numbers and Important Documents
    3. Prescriptions, Vitamins, and Eyeglasses
    4. Pictures and Irreplaceable Memorabilia
    5. Personal Computers (information on hard drive & disks)
    6. Plastic (credit cards, ATM cards, & cash)