DVR Public Stakeholder’s Meeting a Welcome Forum

DVRLeadership, staff and consumers of The Independence Center (The IC) as well as community members and DVR vendors attended a public stakeholder’s meeting hosted at The IC regarding the merge of Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) and Division of Vocational Rehab (DVR). CDLE and DVR leadership was well represented at the meeting on October 13. The two agencies have been working since March 2015 to make this merger happen as seamlessly as possible. The meeting was called to solicit public input regarding needs and services.
The Independence Center supports the merger. Patricia Yeager, CEO of The IC describes the goal of the merger as ultimately “a job for all who would need one,” while better using government resources to serve persons with and without disabilities looking for work. Under the new merger, if a person with a disability needs additional services centered around functional limitations, DVR staff can join the CDLE team to provide services for the person in the Workforce System. Previously, persons with disabilities were served completely separate from CDLE. In the case of disability rights, Yeager sees “separate services” as not equal.
Yeager addressed vision with panel members from CDLE and DVR. Yeager’s vision for persons with disabilities to be able to enter through the same door as everyone else at CDLE is a powerful place to start in accessibility and inclusion of DVR clients at CDLE. Ellen Golembek, Executive Director of the Department of Labor and Employment, agreed that CDLE shares that goal and cautioned it will take some time.
Ten public meetings were scheduled for statewide input and the meeting at The Independence Center was 8th of the 10 meetings. CDLE and DVR held the final wrap-up meeting in Denver on October 21 from 5:30 – 7:00 PM at DVR’s new space, 633 17th Street, Suite 1500, Denver, CO 80202. The CDLE and DVR summarized findings with a final report at this meeting.
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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).
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People with Disabilities: To Work or Not – The Choice is Yours

A Real-Life Story           
One day in Kansas, a man who’d been a quadriplegic for 30+ years went to the doctor. He took off his clothing for an examination.  When the surgical resident, who had never met the man, came in, he did not see the man’s expensive clothing. All he noticed was the power wheelchair.  The doctor started a conversation by asking.  “So, do you work or are you just disabled?” The doctor did not know he was talking to the director of a state agency — a person who had worked all his life. He saw the disability and lowered his expectations about the man’s ability to work.  His personal bias or perceptions were colored by the myth that people with disabilities can’t work; that they are unable to provide for themselves or contribute to the community.
Adults are expected to work to provide for themselves, their families, their community and others.  Psychologists and philosophers include work or contributions to community as a critical part of what it takes for humans to be happy.  Work gives meaning in the world and contributes to one’s sense of self and self esteem.
Unless you have a disability … then society’s expectations change.
This is another way people with disabilities experience oppression and discrimination.  Society gives disability cash benefits (although not nearly enough to live on) to those who are the most significantly disabled.  While having government cash benefits for the short term may be necessary, Social Security data on disability and employment, examined by the Disability Statistics Center in 1996, showed that for 99.5% of recipients it becomes a long term trap – a poverty trap.
However, other approaches are taking hold. Bryon MacDonald, program director of the California Work Incentives Initiative at the World Institute on Disabilities puts it this way, “People with disabilities are shifting their view of government benefit programs from “early retirement mode” to the concept of ‘employment supports.’ In other words, health and benefit programs, from both the government and the employer, can create a better quality of life … that is clearly a paradigm shift. All the reforms are not in place, but many are.”
If you are thinking of getting on public assistance or wondering if you should work,  this information is for you.
Download the rest of the piece in a PDF  version here.

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A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities

As of July 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the unemployment rate for the city of Colorado Springs was 8.4 percent, slightly higher than the national average of 7.4 percent. The unemployment rate for person with a disability was 13.4 percent in 2012, higher than the rate for persons with no disability which was 7.9 percent.
These are staggering statistics. According to Research on Disability, the employment-to-population ratio decreased from 27 percent in August 2012 to 26.4 percent in August 2013 for working-age people with disabilities. While it’s reported that a smaller percentage of people with disabilities are working or finding difficulty in acquiring employment, some companies are blazing new trails for the disability community.
A recent report published by the National Governors Association titled A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities showed that businesses can benefit from employing individuals who are disabled by seeing them as contributing employees and not charity cases. Companies like Walgreens, whose practices inspired a large portion of the report, employ workers who are disabled. These employees make up about one-third of the workforce in their distribution centers.
According to separate studies done by Walgreens, workers who are disabled are more efficient and loyal compared to non-disabled workers. Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, the leader behind the Governors Associate Report, says employers must focus on a person’s ability rather than disability – or even on how a disability enhances a person’s employability.
The million-dollar question now is this: If companies can benefit from employing individuals with disabilities, why is the job market for the disability community more challenging? At The Independence Center, our mission is to create independence for individuals with disabilities, and one way to do this is through employment. Yvonne Bacher, our employment coordinator, works diligently to assist those in need of employment. Additionally, we offer employment workshops that include direction in matters such as resume writing, mock interviews and how to dress for success.
“Many employers think that the cost of accommodating an employee who is disabled is high, but in reality it’s really not,” Bacher said. “There’s a common misconception as well that a person with disabilities is not intelligent enough to perform the job’s tasks, which is simply not the case.”
For more information on our employment services and how we can help you establish employment and independence, contact Yvonne at (719) 471-8181 ext. 102
Move from Move to Disability Employment infographic
 

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The IC Gives to Blue Star Recyclers

Blue Star Recyclers, a local nonprofit that employs and empowers individuals with disabilities. The decision to donate to Blue Star was reached by the board of directors at The Independence Center due in large part by the alignment of missions for both organizations.

“Meaningful jobs for people with disabilities at appropriate wages that provide a real service to the community and the environment is something we want to support,” Patricia Yeager, CEO of The Independence Center said.

Founded in 2009, Blue Star Recyclers is a 501c3 social enterprise based in Colorado Springs with a core mission of recycling electronics and other materials to create local jobs for people with autism and other disabilities. The organization employs 24 individuals (14 of which have disabilities) in Colorado Springs, and has established similar programs in 6 other communities in Colorado and Nebraska that currently employ an additional 30 people with disabilities.

“Our core mission has always been creating an opportunity for meaningful employment at minimum wage or above,” Bill Morris, CEO of Blue Star Recyclers said.  “The people with disabilities we employ have an innate talent for their work, and their work produces revenue for our organization that keeps our doors open, so the people who work here really have a real sense of contribution and value.”

While the funds will be allocated in different ways, Morris stated the main plan for the donation is establishing a much needed electronics testing program.  “We’ve identified that a number of the electronic materials that we receive have reuse potential,” Morris said. “We need a lithium ion battery tester, so we can tell if the battery can be reused. There is also testing equipment for computer memory and a hard drive eraser. If we get (the testing equipment) we can create at least one more job for a person with disabilities.”

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Resume Myths Busted

If you need help building a resume or finding a job, The IC offers employment classes to help you do just that. Check out our class schedule page here for more information.

Resume Myths:

  • Grade point average is a top consideration.
  • Résumés should be one page.
  • Achievements should be highlighted in a separate section.
  • Résumés should have your entire work history.
  • Your résumé should be general to increase your chances of getting a job.
  • Paper résumés are enough.
  • Don’t include social media information.
  • White lies are OK.
  • A PDF is better than a Microsoft Word document.
  • A good résumé will get you a job.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff on your résumé. A few grammatical errors or typos are expected.

For an explanation of each myth, check out the article here: http://on.mash.to/15Lv8bJ

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How Do You Get the Reasonable Accommodations You Need?

To be successful in getting the accommodations you need, it pays to be prepared. Think through what the employer needs to know to make a decision and put that information into a written proposal.  Your proposal should include: Disability (medical terms but most importantly how it impacts you on the job) For example, a person who is hard of hearing and in order to use the phone successfully they need to have an amplified handset. Solution
  1. Locate the individual’s desk in a quiet corner of the office if possible
  2. Purchase specific equipment that can boost the sound and clarity of the phone call
Equipment (Do your homework and be reasonable about the equipment you ask for; as for the most expensive request may lead to an automatic “No!”)
  1. Detail the exact equipment if you know it; otherwise the generic title will do.  Example: The company phone system has a separate amplified handset that is compatible.
  2. The cost and where to purchase or who to contact.
Justification (What will happen as a result of this accommodation) If the individual is given an amplified handset to use on calls, they will be able to hear people and get their information correctly the first time. They will be more comfortable on the phone and better able to concentrate on communicating.  Additionally, they will be much less fatigued during and after work if I am not straining to hear. Do your research first.  Anticipate your employer’s questions and objections and write a solid proposal with as much detail as needed.  Show the benefit to the employer in your improved and more efficient work output and you will have a better chance of getting that reasonable accommodation.
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