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The History of The IC

In 1987, The Independence Center was founded by people with disabilities who saw a need for independent living services and home health care services in the community. The IC serves people with all disabilities in El Paso, Teller, Kiowa, Kit Carson, Park, Lincoln, Cheyenne and Elbert counties and over 500 people annually.

After 25 years The IC’s founder, Vicki Skoog retired from the Center. She and her late husband, Ted left the Center a great legacy. Through her entrepreneurial skills she laid the foundation for the business that sustains the entire Center. Our long-term care/home health services, funded primarily through Medicaid and some private insurance and pay, allow us to help individuals of any age to remain in their homes.

Because we provide so many services (over 20,000 visits a month) we put the money we earn back into Center services and the community. These funds support our Independent Living Center services and programs as well as administration.  In addition we fund a Home Modifications program, a community-organizing program, and tuition assistance for our staff members.  We are working to set up a “representative payee” program outside the organization for people on benefits who cannot manage their funds.

Our goal is to make Colorado Springs and the eight counties we serve a welcoming environment for people with disabilities to live, go to school, work, recreate and participate in community life.  Our focus is primarily on people with physical and mental/emotional disabilities; we also serve those with developmental disabilities who find our services useful.

We are working to create a community where everyone is welcome and belongs. With a truly accessible building, trained staff with and without disabilities, engaging events, and technology that allows us to be out in the community providing services and supports, we envision a true disability community where people can make a connection and get a life.

Do you know the purpose for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

When President Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law—the world’s first comprehensive civil rights law for people with disabilities—in front of 3,000 people on the White House lawn on July 26, 1990, the event represented an historical benchmark and a milestone in America’s commitment to full and equal opportunity for all of its citizens.

The President’s emphatic directive on that day— “Let the shameful walls of exclusion finally come tumbling down”— neatly encapsulated the simple yet long overdue message of the ADA: that millions of Americans with disabilities are full-fledged citizens and as such are entitled to legal protections that ensure them equal opportunity and access to the mainstream of American life.

Enactment of the ADA reflects deeply held American ideals that treasure the contributions that individuals can make when free from arbitrary, unjust, or outmoded societal attitudes and practices that prevent the realization of their potential. The ADA reflects a recognition that the surest path to America’s continued vitality, strength and vibrancy is through the full realization of the contributions of all of its citizens.

We will have a silent auction, film screening about the movement and speakers who participated in the movement!

People with disabilities have been present throughout American history

Many stories and events related to people with disabilities never make it into the history books or shared public memories. Familiar concepts and events such as citizenship, work, and wars become more complicated, challenge our assumptions about what counts as history, and transform our connection with each other when viewed from the historical perspective of people with disabilities, America’s largest minority.

Knowing these histories deepens understanding of the American experience and reveals how complicated history really is. In addition, when history comes through artifacts, distinct themes emerge—for example, the significance of place, relationships, and technology—that are less apparent when only books and words are used.

Check out this website for more details on the history of disability in America.

Building Remodel Creates More Accessible Center

Beginning in November, The Independence Center began our building remodel. Our staff has shared the building with consultants, construction crews and contractors. The construction has caused a few smelly days, and some noisy ones as well, but upon its completion everything was worth it in the end. Our building is beautiful, friendly and welcoming, but most of all its more accessible.

Accessibility and accommodation were the foundation of this remodel, and seeing it come to fruition is rewarding for all stakeholders at The Independence Center.

“We bend over backwards on accommodating people, “said Andrew McAdam, Manager of Business Services at The Independence Center. “You need to respect everyone. And we need to be the place that starts that.”

How has the building become more accessible?

 What we’ve done

 How it helps

 Loop system  Makes the building environment easier to hear in for individuals with hearing impairments. The loop system was installed in the building, and a portable one was purchased as well, so we can go out in to the community and still maintain accessibility.
 Accessible furniture Desks with cranks allow for anyone in a wheelchair to adjust the height. All office chairs are fully ergonomic. Cabinets are lower, so wheelchair users can reach the top drawer.
 Lighting Installed all new fixtures in the building that provide a crisper light, making it easier for those with visual impairments to see.
 Hallway width We’ve maintained the width of the hallways, which are wide enough for 3 – 4 people to move through at once.
 Lower wall fixtures The light switches and thermostats are lower, so they are more accessible to everyone.
 Flooring The flooring installed in the building is specifically made to be durable, but very user friendly for those that are visually impaired so you won’t trip on it and it’s great for wheelchairs. Vinyl carpet was installed in all of the offices, which works well with wheelchairs as well.
 Alert system We created an alert system and speakers around the building so people that have hearing impairments can hear it in more places.
 Clocks There are high-contrast clocks in all offices, which are easier to read for those with visual impairments.
 Hired a driver for our accessible van This driver was hired to drive those who are unable to drive.

In addition to these changes, The Accessibility Store experienced some change in this remodel as well.

In The Accessibility Store, we’ve increased the things that we sell to reach further in to each of the disabilities,” McAdam said. “So instead of just having a cane, now we we’ve got a cane and widget to go with it. We’ve increased the number of games in there as well. It’s not just functional how to live day-to-day; it’s also about how to enjoy life day-to-day. We go away from just the and expanded it in to how can you really enjoy life.”

The Independence Center is the hub of the disability community in this region, and our building should reflect that. Our building is a shining model for access and for accommodating our customers and employees who have disabilities.

Want to see more?

Check our Facebook for pictures from our BBQ, celebrating the conclusion of the remodel here.

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