Friday, October 31, 2014

Good News Friday!

Today, I am pleased to share highlights of Imagine!’s most recently ended fiscal year (FY 2013-2104). Over the course of the year, Imagine! provided case management or service coordination for a total of 2,972 individuals throughout Boulder and Broomfield Counties. More than 900 (30%) of people served by Imagine! were babies and toddlers with developmental delays; the rest were children, youth, and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Imagine! also provided a range of direct services to these individuals.

Here’s a breakdown of some of those services:

Imagine!’s Family Support division:
  • Provided information and referrals to more than 1,400 families providing at-home care for an individual with I/DD. 
  • Provided financial support to the families of 60 children with extraordinary needs arising from I/DD and physical disabilities who were waitlisted for Medicaid-funded services. 
  • Helped parents of 60 children with autism spectrum disorders to select and pay for services such as psychological counseling, behavioral therapy, or social skills coaching. 
Imagine!’s Innovations division:
  • Supervised foster placements and care for 29 children whose special needs could not be met by their birth parents. 
  • Provided a variety of residential services – responsive to individual needs and capabilities – to 194 adults with I/DD. This number included 28 individuals who required round-the-clock, hands-on staff supports. 
Imagine!’s Dayspring division:
  • Helped 315 babies and toddlers with developmental delays to improve their communication, motor, and/or social skills through early intervention therapies. 
Imagine!’s Out & About division:
  • Assisted 48 school-aged children with I/DD in learning vital socialization skills to help them to participate more fully in society, while affording their parents the peace of mind that comes with safe and appropriate childcare during work hours, through Summer Camp, After School, and School Closure Day programs. 
  • Promoted the safety, growth, and development of 158 local adults with I/DD by giving them access to special outings and activities in the community. 
Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source division:
  • Provided job training, placement, coaching, and supervision for 123 adults with I/DD. 
  • Fostered the growth, development, and safety of 205 adults with I/DD through enriching and therapeutic day programs and classes. 
Imagine!’s Behavioral Health Services (IBHS):
  • Provided comprehensive mental health services to 210 individuals with dual (mental illness and I/DD) diagnoses. 
  • Provided a broad range of behavioral health services to 87 individuals, and educated their parents and caregivers about ways to build cooperative behavior. 
Congratulations to all Imagine! employees for another great year of making a difference in the lives of those we serve.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Out & About With . . . EXPAND

Imagine!’s Out & About department was created in 1997 in response to the requests of community members with disabilities and family members who care for those with disabilities to have more options for community-based recreation services. That “community-based” element is key - rather than scheduling activities in a segregated setting, you will find Out & About participants (both adults and children) utilizing recreation centers, bowling alleys, movie theaters, museums, and even amusement parks.

Of course, Out & About wouldn’t be able to provide those services without the support of the many, many community organizations that collaborate with Out & About to ensure that participants are able to receive positive instruction, within a therapeutic framework, to encourage growth, learning, community participation, socialization, health, safety, and the achievement of individual goals.

So over the next few months, I’d like to use this blog to thank some of those community partners that make all the difference when it comes to successful outcomes for Out & About participants.

Today, I’d like to acknowledge Boulder Parks and Recreation’s EXPAND program for its support of Out & About. The EXciting Programs Adventures and New Dimensions (EXPAND) program helps people who have disabilities improve and gain new recreation and leisure skills that will enhance participants' overall well being and their quality of life. Participants in Out & About’s Catalog program attend community dances through EXPAND once a month, and they are always a big hit!

Thank you, Boulder Parks and Recreation and EXPAND, for your continued support of your community and all of its members.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Election Effect

"Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." –Winston Churchill 

If television ads, radio ads, newspaper ads, online ads, billboards, mailings, social media posts, and water cooler conversations are to be believed, apparently we are in an election season.

The fact that we have a government that is elected by our citizenship is a remarkable thing. I don’t take that lightly and I wouldn’t change that even if I could. But there is an interesting aspect about how politics works in our country which isn’t often discussed, but which has a tremendous impact on those of us working to provide services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

In many ways, our system comes to a grinding halt every election season.

I don’t mean that services stop getting delivered. Instead, I mean that any forward momentum from collaborations between service providers and the people who establish the rules and regulations governing those services just plain stops.

It makes sense. Uncertainty takes over during these times. Politicians want to be careful to not make too many moves that may hurt them in the election. Department heads aren’t sure if they will have a job in the next few months. Those of us providing services aren’t sure how much time, energy, and resources we should commit to working with individuals and administrations that may or may not be there for the long haul. There is little incentive to do much of anything except to stay in a holding pattern.

If our system of services was in a better place, that wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, our system of services isn’t in a great place. There are many unanswered questions, many challenges which need to addressed. Sadly, the work to answer those questions and address those challenges slows way down during election season.

Next week’s election results will determine who will chair, and who will be members of the Joint Budget Committee, who will be Governor, and who will sit on the various Legislative Committees. In each case, we at Imagine! have strategies in place to go back to work to support the citizens we serve. In addition, if a new Governor is elected, he will appoint Directors of each of the State Departments that regulate our services. For each new player, we will need to go to work to demonstrate, inform, and educate on what is working and what is not working in the service systems in their control.

So we aren’t sitting still. However, it can feel a bit like we are taking two steps forward and one step back every time an election rolls around. We have to hurry up and then wait, and unfortunately, I’m not sure the people we serve are always in the position to wait.

Then again, what do I know?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Technology Tuesday

Today’s Technology Tuesday comes from Chris Baumgart, Imagine!’s Assistive Technology Specialist. Chris provides us the latest edition of a little segment he likes to call “Chris’s Corner.” Thanks, Chris! 

Chris’s Corner
"Down on the corner…Out in the Street…"

Coming to you straight from Imagine! CORE/Labor Source’s (CLS) own Boulder Adaptive Orchestra: “Give Us a Beat!”

The Adaptive Orchestra, which meets weekly at Imagine!'s Boulder CLS site, focuses on teaching a variety of skills to the individuals it serves. Many of the skills taught are what you’d expect to find in any music class: theory, note recognition, group performance, musical expression, and so many more. These skills can be taught any number of ways, as you can see by the simple adaptation featured below, used to teach specific keyboard keys that apply to specific scales.

Additionally, and this is where I get excited, this class is always challenged to find new and creative ways to engage its students, as well as broadening areas of inclusion for everyone. This has led to a number of new tools, ranging anywhere from iPad apps that allow more individuals to play virtual instruments in an arrangement, to digital drum pads, to MIDI controllers, and more. The newest introduction to this inclusive tool kit now turns DynaVox communication devices into dynamic music monster machines!

Shown below is a traditional MIDI Controller.

These controllers allow participants to press any of the buttons you see pictured, and each button sends a unique signal that is associated with various musical notes (from a range of virtual instruments), in addition to other samples and loops. However, the necessity of physically pressing the buttons presents a challenge to many individuals, and may hinder individuals (especially those using a communication device) from participating.

Now, by using the AccessIt interface pictured below, individuals are able to use their communication devices to mimic many of the same signals that a typical MIDI controller would transmit.

The user page shown above is a basic page set to transmit ten different unique signals that are easy to use and easy to customize, thus taking inclusive music performance and composition to a whole new horizon.

Stay tuned for video of footage of these sessions in action!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Good News Friday!

Over this past year, I made a series of posts about Labor Source, the supported employment division of Imagine!’sCORE/Labor Source department, celebrating its 30th Anniversary this year.

In each one of those posts, I made comments about the value that comes from hiring individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) – value to the individual, value to the businesses, and value to the community.

The Arc of Larimer County recently produced a video echoing those thoughts. In fact, if I’m being honest, they have said it a lot better than I ever did. So I thought I should share the video today. The video features a good friend of Imagine!, Bob Lawhead, CEO of Community Link, and has a lot of great information about why hiring people with I/DD truly benefits us all.

  Can’t see the video? Click here

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Out & About With . . . Bob Burger Recreation Center

Imagine!’s Out & About department was created in 1997 in response to the requests of community members with disabilities and family members who care for those with disabilities to have more options for community-based recreation services. That “community-based” element is key - rather than scheduling activities in a segregated setting, you will find Out & About participants (both adults and children) utilizing recreation centers, bowling alleys, movie theatres, museums, and even amusement parks.

Of course, Out & About wouldn’t be able to provide those services without the support of the many, many community organizations that collaborate with Out & About to ensure that participants are able to receive positive instruction, within a therapeutic framework, to encourage growth, learning, community participation, socialization, health, safety, and the achievement of individual goals.

So over the next few months, I’d like to use this blog to thank some of those community partners that make all the difference when it comes to successful outcomes for Out & About participants. 

Today, I’d like to acknowledge the Bob Burger Recreation Center in Lafayette, CO, for its support of Out & About. Out & About classes use the Bob Burger Rec Center’s pool at least once a week during the school year as well as during the summer. Out & About has been going there for more than five years, and their desk staff and lifeguards are incredibly accommodating and patient with the participants.

Thank you, Bob Burger Recreation Center, for your continued support of your community and all of its members.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Privilege Checking

Today, I am going to share more musings from my trip to Africa.

It should come as no surprise that during my travels I came upon many people who would be considered to be living in extreme poverty by the standards of those of us living in the United States. Even knowing this full well before embarking on my trip, at times, seeing the reality was jarring.

I have always considered myself to live a modest life. I believed that my needs were simple and my desire for possessions was limited. I chose a career in a field that isn’t exactly known for its high rate of pay, so I never viewed myself as “rich.”

But when confronted with the reality of what it meant to be middle class in Africa, or worse yet, what it meant to be poor in Africa, I had to re-assess my own view of my position in life. I had to acknowledge the fact that I actually live a very privileged life.

I know that statement can seem kind of obvious. Of course I understood, even before traveling to Africa, how the standard of living in our country was far higher than that of most countries in the world. But that kind of high level understanding is very different than seeing that difference first-hand. Somehow, encountering that reality face to face made me recognize how different my life is from most of my fellow world citizens. My privilege was suddenly very apparent.

Which started me to thinking about privilege and what it means. Or what it should mean. Sometimes people who end up in privilege don’t know what to do with it. They can become protective and territorial as they try to hold on to that privilege at all costs. Others, however, believe that with privilege comes a responsibility to use that privilege in ways that may lead to the betterment of others. I unashamedly put myself into that latter category.

I think Imagine! is a privileged organization. We are fortunate to have a workforce that, from the various levels of management to the Direct Service Providers, is smart, dedicated, creative, and engaged in looking for the best ways possible to provide opportunities for the individuals we serve to become more self-sufficient. There are many provider organizations that offer excellent services and are staffed by dedicated and compassionate people. But I genuinely believe that Imagine! is privileged in a way many of those other organizations are not.

Logically, then, I believe that Imagine! has a certain responsibility to use our privilege to work to improve our entire system of funding and delivering services. If you look at our organization I think you will find that we do that in many ways and at many times. For just one example, I point to our exploration of technology as a way to be more effective and efficient in our service delivery. We took this path quite some time ago, and encountered (and continue to encounter) challenging resistance along the way. Despite that, and despite a funding system that doesn’t support work to look at alternative ways to deliver services, we have become one of the very few organizations when it comes to discussing how technology can be used to improve the lives of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Case in point: just this past Friday, representatives from the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF) took a tour of Imagine!’s Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome in Boulder (see picture below).

As the rule makers and regulators are coming more and more to accept that technology can and must be part of services in the future, they are looking to find experts and those with experience in using technological tools as they create the roadmap for services in the future. They are coming to Imagine!, and we are happy to help.

I don’t want to oversell this. Like all organizations, Imagine! has areas where we aren’t as successful as we could or should be when it comes to sharing our knowledge, our skill, and our experience with others so that the people we serve can live fulfilling lives in their homes and communities. But overall, we are privileged to have a work culture where we want to share our bounty of understanding and know-how with others. We are rightly proud of our privilege, and we are willing to share it. In the end, I think we all benefit from that attitude.

Then again, what do I know?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Technology Tuesday

This week’s Technology Tuesday comes to you from Suzanne Phillips, Communication Teacher at Imagine!’s Longmont CORE/Labor Source (CLS) hub. Today, Suzanne talks about the new iPads they recently acquired at Longmont CLS, and how they are planning to put those iPads to good use. 

It is finally time! Imagine!’s Longmont CORE/Labor Source (CLS) is proud to introduce you to our newest tech addition - a fleet of shiny new iPads!

We couldn't be more excited about the arrival of 10 iPads, a first for Longmont CLS. We have been preparing for this for a long time, and we have plans to integrate these devices into every classroom and job site at CLS. There is so much that we can do with these devices! Here are a few of the plans we have for these new tools:

  • We will use them to create daily visual schedules for clients. 
  • There will be a Google translate app and an ASL dictionary on every device. We have several clients at Longmont CLS whose primary language is not English - these apps will make communication with these clients quicker, more effective, and educational for all involved. 
  • We have several apps dedicated to money math concepts, certainly an important skill for each of our clients to practice and master. 
  • We have an app dedicated to what we call "checking in." This app is simple and can easily be used by non-readers. The first page has a variety of facial expressions - students can touch a smiling face, a frowning face, an angry face to indicate their current mood. This app has several other pages that students can scroll through - pages that display colors, seasons, numbers, letters, weather, etc. I have used this app with clients that do not communicate verbally to ask them what the weather is, how they are feeling, what color their shirt is, etc. It is a very effective tool! 
  • We have a variety of generalized interactive educational apps that are designed to help students learn and practice reading, writing, math, science, and fine motor skills. 
This is just a tiny snapshot of the plans we have for these new devices at Longmont CLS. Not only are these devices customizable to every client, classroom, and job site, but they are just fun. The apps are engaging and students will be able to practice skills at their own pace. I cannot wait to see what the Longmont teachers and job coaches do with these devices, the possibilities are endless. I will report back with success stories soon - stay tuned!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Good News Friday!

One of our roles at Imagine! is helping the individuals and families we serve navigate the very complex system that funds and directs services. At times, it can be overwhelming to those in services to try to make sense of all they need to do in order to get the supports they so desperately need.

When we do something to share helpful information with our stakeholders in a new and creative way, I want to make sure I acknowledge that work publicly.

So today I’d like to give a shout out to Imagine!’s Supported Living Services (SLS) Case Management Supervisor Jenna Corder. Jenna has created a fun, informative video to help our families and other stakeholders learn about the process for enrolling in the SLS Waiver, and the services it provides. Check it out below.

 Great work, Jenna!
 Can’t see the video? Click here

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Matter Of Trust

So, I’m still thinking about my trip to Africa and the many things I learned during that experience. And, so, of course I’m going to share those thoughts on my blog. But first, a trip down a different path. Do you remember the part in the movie Toy Story when Woody and Buzz first catch sight of the frankentoys created by Sid, the neighbor of Woody’s owner? The pair was terrified at first sight of these freakish toy mashups.

Can't see the video? Click here.

But eventually a bond of trust between Woody, Buzz, and the frankentoys develops, and they all team up to take revenge on Sid.

Can't see the video? Click here.

So how did that trust develop? And what does that have to do with me climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro? Well, I, too, was put in the position where I had to trust someone completely, and I, too, had a positive outcome as a result.

In order for my quest to climb the mountain to be successful, I had to completely trust people I’d never met, and with whom communication barriers were significant, to keep me safe and guide me on my journey. For example, when I first arrived at the airport, I was picked up by a driver to take me to my lodging. He had my name on a sign, but that’s the only way I knew he was there for me. Yet I instantly put my trust in him – I got in the car with him and let him take me to my destination. Is it possible that he could have been a bad person and not taken me to where I was supposed to be heading? Of course. But I undertook this trip with the attitude that I was going to need help to make my dream come true, and that I was willing to place trust in complete strangers in order to get where I wanted to go.

Some people before (and after) the trip have expressed astonishment to me that I was going to such a far and exotic locale. Wasn’t I worried about crime? About being vulnerable? About encountering abject poverty? About catching ebola? The honest answer is “no.” Other than the ebola thing, the rest were within the realm of possibility, I admit. But that was no way to take the trip if I couldn’t let go of fear and put my trust in others. And every time I did put my trust in others, barriers fell away and great things happened.

Despite some people’s astonishment, we actually trust our lives to complete strangers all the time. Think about driving on the freeway. Most of us driving on the highways make an unwritten compact that we will stay in our lanes, obey the traffic laws, and not slam into the other cars on the road. Yes, a very few people don’t obey the rules for one reason or other, and sometimes the results can be catastrophic. We have to remain vigilant, and trust doesn’t mean a complete submission. But we do trust others every time we head out on the highway, and usually that works out just fine.

Imagine! works with a vulnerable population. There has to be trust involved for us to be successful. The individuals and families we serve need to trust their support providers, the funders need to trust the organizations delivering the services, and the community needs to trust all of us. Sometimes there are barriers to trust, and those need to be overcome to ensure success.

 One way to gain and keep that trust is to be transparent. I believe strongly that Imagine! is an incredibly transparent organization. We are very open and out there with what we are doing and why. Wonder what’s up at Imagine!? Check out our Facebook pages, our blogs, our websites. Come to our Board of Directors meetings, which are open to the public. We encourage that kind of engagement.

And that sort of engagement can be risky. There are some who think we share too much. I disagree. I think the risk of sharing too much is far outweighed by the advantages of removing barriers to trust. When we trust, amazing things can happen.

Then again, what do I know?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Technology Tuesday

This week’s Technology Tuesday comes from Imagine!’s Assistive Technology Lab facilitator Stephanie Tilley shares five apps for tablets and mobile devices that may benefit individuals with a variety of intellectual and developmental disabilities. Stephanie is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist who has worked for Imagine! for more than 10 years, and is the author of “101 Adapted Games for Kids,” which provides adaptations for children’s activities to create inclusive activities and environments. 

This week I’d like to highlight a program that we use on the computer called Boardmaker Studio. Boardmaker Studio is part of a family of programs which include Boardmaker, Boardmaker Plus, Boardmaker with Speaking Dynamic Pro, and Boardmaker Studio. Boardmaker Studio is a design program that lets you make and adapt curriculum materials for clients who need symbols to support their participation. Teachers and staff can use the program to make computer activities or printed materials. There is also access to an online community that allows teachers to share templates or projects that have been made using Boardmaker. Many of the activities shared include schedules or teaching on life skills topics.

We have used the program in a variety of ways, but there are two ways that I would like to highlight. First, we are using Boardmaker on the computer during our cause and effect class. This class is set up to help teach and support clients in learning the basic communication by pressing switches to activate preferred activities. I was able to set up a variety of activities individualized to the different client’s preferences using the Boardmaker Studio program.

 Another way that we have used the software is to set up a printed schedule for a client to use at work. We took pictures of supplies that are used in his work setting to help him complete his work. Each of these real life pictures was imported into the Boardmaker Studio software and organized into schedules. The schedules were printed and laminated and combined into a book for the client. Each day he gets his book, looks at the supplies that he needs to gather, and starts on his cleaning schedule. He can reference the book throughout the day and complete his job more thoroughly and more independently.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Good News Friday!

Gary Stebick (left) and his good friend Griggs
Last Friday marked the end of an era at Imagine!. My esteemed colleague, and more important, my good friend Gary Stebick retired from Imagine! after 31 years of service. Last year, I wrote about Gary and how we met at the beginning of our careers at Imagine!, and how we both assumed we would be moving on from the organization after working for here a few months, maybe a year at the most. Three decades later, one of us is finally actually leaving.

A recent edition of Imagine!’s employee newsletter featured an article with fond remembrances of Gary from some of his co-workers. I thought I’d share that article with my blog readers today. The stories are fun, but they only touch the tip of the iceberg in revealing how important Gary was to this organization and the people we serve. He was one of a kind and will be greatly missed. On behalf of all of us at Imagine!, I’d like to that Gary for all he did for Imagine!, and to wish him the very best in the future.

Anyway, before I get too emotional, below is the newsletter article. I encourage anyone else reading this with fond memories of Gary to share them in the comments section.

Many people have been positively affected by Gary over the years. His kindness, work ethic, and integrity have touched employees, consumers, families, and community members. We asked just a few of those people to share some of their memories of Gary:  

Years ago, Gary set up a fake surveillance camera in the Dixon kitchen with a sign, “I'm watching you”. He pointed it at the sink and dishwasher area, and it panned back and forth. You’d be amazed at how many people washed their own dishes or loaded the dishwasher while that fake camera was up! 

After working with a family of an individual who has passed away, I was asked if I knew anyone who would be able to officiate the remembrance ceremony. I had immediately thought of Gary. The individual who had passed was a very shy and introverted person, but every time he saw Gary, he would brighten up and immediately ask to shake Gary’s hand and would initiate the contact. I always thought that this was a testament to the person that Gary is and I knew Gary would do an amazing job officiating. When I approached Gary, he was humbled at the request and he made a promise to do the person justice. I never had any doubts that Gary would do an amazing job and he was wonderful. The individual’s family was very happy and it meant a lot to the people who knew the individual. 

When Gary would like to talk with someone in the office, he very quietly and respectfully walks up behind them at their desk. Usually, that person is emailing or looking generally busy, so he stands there quietly because he doesn’t want to bug them... but then ends up scaring the dickens out of the person when they actually turn around! This happened to Jerry Gooding more times than I can count! 

The first time I met Gary was at an Imagine! softball game. The whole time, I was wondering how can this guy be so dang nice?! Our team was overthrowing balls and striking out. I was so confused! How could he be so cool about a 15-ZIP score?! I had only ever known coaches who would yell, get mad, and tell you everything you were doing wrong. After observing that season, where we didn’t win one single game, I discovered that I had become a better coach in other areas of my life. I became a better coach from watching Gary’s compassion for everyone. He truly did teach me how to believe in the potential of all. 

He came to almost every single ‘Potentials’ softball game, even when he wasn’t on the team! Also, he called us “chuckleheads” during that one game this year. That was pretty hysterical. 

Gary’s #1 focus has always been clients and families. He gives so much thought, time, attention and respect to each interaction. Not only when he was working direct service, but also when he moved into his PR job. He represents Imagine! in the community in a way that makes Imagine! very accessible to community members. When Gary is talking, it very easy to support Imagine!. Even when he is in a position to correct or inform people, he doesn’t judge, he compassionately educates people. Each time he goes to an organization to present on behalf of Imagine!, he takes the time to learn about that organization and learn what they do. He sincerely acknowledges them. This type of thoughtfulness is in even the small things he does. Over the years, community members have taken the time to write articles for Imagine!. Gary keeps notes on every person who writes for Imagine!, so he can go back and thank them afterwards. He lets the person know when, where, and how their articles were presented. He makes it personal for them. He makes supporting Imagine! personal. 

Gary is consciously considerate of all the people around him. That can take the form of sending a special note to wish them a happy work anniversary or sharing his secret stash of chocolate, forks, and Advil! 

The first time I got a birthday card from Gary, I was so pumped! Gary is just so cool, so that must mean that I’m cool too if he’s giving me a birthday card! When I read it, I noticed that he had written his thoughtful and inspiring message on a Post-It note and stuck it on the inside. I thought that perhaps he had written the message earlier and then ran out to grab a card. Several months later, I began to notice that this was a theme when Gary gave cards to others. I had seen two or three other cards, with thoughtful Post-Its stuck on the inside. Then it dawned on me! He not only remembered these special occasions, took the time to get cards, and wrote thoughtful notes... He also used a Post-It so the card would stay clean and the person could reuse it for someone else! His kindness ripples out to people he has never even met! 

When Gary was preparing to give a presentation to an outside organization about my department, he took the time to come and talk with all of us. He easily could have asked for typed bios in an email, but Gary took the time to get to know us and understand what we do. When he presented about our department, he wasn’t just reading it from a piece of paper, he truly knew and I’m sure the audience could feel that authenticity, too. 

Recently, there was a month or two stretch when every time I would walk into the office kitchen, there would be Gary with his hand in the trashcan! I’m guessing he was just properly sorting the recycling and compost that others had mixed up. But there was a chunk of time when it seemed he was always rooting around in the trashcan!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I Bless The Rains Down In Africa

For those of you who don’t know, I spent the last few weeks marking off one of the items on my bucket list. I traveled to Tanzania and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.
It was truly a trip and experience of a lifetime, and I have hundreds of delightful and fascinating memories. Longtime readers of this blog have probably guessed that I also spent part of the trip thinking about how the experience related to Imagine! and the work we do.

It wasn’t a big leap to make that connection. I hiked the mountain as part of a guided trip. As such, I was a client of the mountain guide company, and my experience was in many ways parallel to the clients of Imagine!.

As a side note: I understand that the term “client,” one of several terms used to describe individuals in services at organizations like Imagine!, like all of the terms used in our field, isn’t a perfect descriptor of the relationship between provider and individuals receiving services, and not everyone prefers to use the term. But it makes for a good analogy for this blog post, and I didn’t mind the reference, so please bear with me. 

Anyway, I was a client for the mountain guide company. In many ways, I was completely at the company’s mercy. Without their support and guidance, I was extremely vulnerable. I don’t speak Swahili. (OK – I can say “hi,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome.”) I didn’t have the means to keep myself comfortable and safe (or indeed alive) without the support of the company. Even with a map, I didn’t really have the capability or resources to navigate the climb by myself. I didn’t have any way of communicating with family or friends without using the company as a go-through.

So of course I accepted and acknowledge their help and assistance. Essentially, I had an IDT to map out how, I would achieve my goal. They documented daily progress along the way. I was well aware I could probably never do this on my own and was incredible appreciative of the time, thought, and effort (both visible and behind the scenes) they put in to helping me realize this dream.

And yet, at times I questioned the degree to which I handed control over my actions to someone else. For example, I had to climb at the pace the guide set, which I felt was way too slow (although of course I was grateful for that slow pace by the end of the journey). I had to keep the guide and support staff updated on everything about my physical condition; what I ate, drank, how much I slept, and well ... use your imagination. Somewhere in Africa there is a file that contains documents of my health and well-being for the week I was on the mountain. I had to wear what they recommended me to wear, eat what (and where and when) they told me to eat. The guide had the ultimate power to tell me if I could or couldn’t make the final assault on the summit, and if he had said “no,” I would have not been able to continue, for my own good, whether I wanted to or not.

I think that is very much like what those who get services from us must feel. Support services enable many of them to live safely and comfortably, but far more important, to meet their personal goals and desires in ways that probably wouldn’t be possible without assistance. But those opportunities come with tradeoffs, especially in terms of giving up control over aspects of their lives that most of us take for granted. It is a delicate balance.

When that balance is correct, like during my experience on Kilimanjaro, then great things can happen; I summited on September 15, 2014. Everyone involved in our services, from administrators to care providers to clients, must work together to make sure that balance is indeed the right one. When it is, the opportunities are endless.

Then again, what do I know?

Can't see the video? Click here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Technology Tuesday

A team of Imagine! employees, in conjunction with Joe Morelli, the Director of Strategic Planning and Internal Financial Review for Living Resources Corporation, and Laurie Dale, the Director of Information Technology for Ability Beyond, have been collaborating on a project for the last five months. The goal of the project is to create a site assessment tool for evaluating the technological needs of a residential environment.

The tool looks at accessibility features, health and safety, staffing efficiencies, and the regulatory process. This tool will help organizations identify, budget for, and prioritize existing technologies that will impact the site for greater client independents, documentation ease and accuracy, and increased safety.

The assessment will focus on the relationship between the ability level of the residents, the supervision requirements of the setting, historical patterning, present and future concerns, and particular technologies. Using those criteria, the tool will create a hierarchical report of specific technologies based on these areas of application: Health and Safety; Preventative; Accessibility; Remote Supports; Regulatory and Staff Supports; and Efficiency. Imagine! and our partners hope this tool will assist organizations to better access, determine, and understand technological applications that could benefit the people they serve, as well as support the Direct Care Professionals supporting them.

The first draft of the tool will be highlighted in a presentation by Imagine!’s own SmartHomes guru Greg Wellems at the Coleman Institute’s Fourteenth Annual Conference on Cognitive Disability and Technology this Thursday.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Good News Friday!

On behalf of everyone at Imagine!, I’d like to offer my sincere congratulations to Via on the occasion of its 35th Anniversary.

Via’s mission is to promote independence and self-sufficiency for people with limited mobility by providing caring, customer-focused transportation options. There is a great deal of overlap between the populations served by Imagine! and Via, and I’m proud to say that our relationship is one that continues to be beneficial not only to both of our organizations but, more importantly, to our community.

At Imagine!, we believe in the potential of all. We believe that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have a great deal to offer to their communities, if only given the chance. We have spent more than 50 years developing programs in Boulder and Broomfield counties designed to open doors for more community opportunities for the people we serve.

However, none of those opportunities mean much if the individuals we serve can’t get to where the opportunities exist. Access to transportation can make all the difference when it comes to getting to a job site on time, attending an enriching class, getting a checkup at the doctor’s office, or visiting friends and family. These are the sort of activities that define a healthy community, and the ability to get to and from these activities is something most of us take for granted. However, some in our community face barriers to transportation which can lead to isolation and segregation. Via has spent 35 years breaking down those barriers, and by doing so, has made our community healthier, happier, and more inclusive.

Thank you, Via, for your 35 years of service. I can’t wait to see what the next 35 years will bring.