Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Technology Tuesday

Shelly, who lives in Imagine!’s Charles Family SmartHome and participates in Imagine!'s CORE/Labor Source program, is pictured here using an app called “Kahoot” and an adaptive switch with an iPad to play an interactive quiz with her peers. The iPad auto detects the choice options and then Shelly is able to choose which ones she thinks is the right answer!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Good News Friday!

Imagine!’s Volunteer Program officially began five years ago (of course, we had volunteers before, but it was a loosely organized effort).

In the spirit of yesterday’s holiday, and to celebrate five years of volunteerism at Imagine!, today I am sharing short videos highlighting five volunteers who have truly made a difference at Imagine!.

Of course, choosing just five volunteers was very difficult – last year 379 volunteers donated 8,784 hours of their time to support Imagine!’s mission of creating a world of opportunity for all abilities!

We are grateful to them all, and hope that the five we highlight serve as a great representation of the many generous folks who so kindly give back to their communities.

Inna Chang

  Can’t see the video? Click here

Patrick McCue

  Can’t see the video? Click here

Zoe Polk

  Can’t see the video? Click here.

The Rusk Family

  Can’t see the video? Click here

Leona Stoecker

  Can’t see the video? Click here.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Giving Thanks

On this day of thanks, I would like to say “thank you” to:

The people we serve: They inspire and teach me every single day.

Our employees: Dedication and passion abound among staff members at every level of Imagine!. They are difference makers in the very best ways.

Our donors: The continued and generous support of those who contribute financially to our mission allows us to offer services above and beyond what our traditional (and frequently shrinking) funding sources allow.

Our volunteers: Imagine! volunteers share their time and talent directly with the people Imagine! serves and with projects of all sizes, increasing the quality of support and services we are able to provide.

Our community: We are so fortunate to live in a community that embraces the individuals we serve and the work we do. We couldn’t have reached the level of success we have without our community’s demonstrated commitment to an inclusive world.

You: Whatever your association with Imagine! is, if you are reading this right now, I thank you for your interest in creating a world of opportunity for people of all abilities.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Technology Tuesday

For today’s Technology Tuesday, we have a guest blogger! Jessica Gaylord works for Imagine!'s CORE/Labor Source department and is a member of Imagine!’s 2016/2017 Leadership Development Group (LDG). On behalf of her fellow LDG members, she wrote the following account about their experiences attending the 16th Annual Coleman Institute Conference on Cognitive Disability and Technology and the ANCOR Technology Summit and Showcase in early October. Thanks for sharing, Jessica! 

Imagine!’s 2016/2017 Leadership Development Group (LDG) is officially underway! As a group, we launched our experience by attending the 16th Annual Coleman Institute Conference on Cognitive Disability and Technology, and the ANCOR Technology Summit and Showcase in early October. These conferences host attendees from all over the US, and even outside of the US, but conveniently takes place at the Omni Hotel in Broomfield. Both conferences promoted the use of technology within our field. There was a lot of information to soak up, but between the two technology-filled days there are a handful of highlights we each took away from the seminars.

One of the speakers at the Coleman Conference was Richard Ellenson, CEO of the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and the father of a son living with Cerebral Palsy (CP). Ellenson and the Cerebral Palsy Foundation have created the “Just Say Hi!” campaign. This campaign focuses upon common misunderstandings associated with community interactions for people with disabilities and educates folks to “Just Say Hi!” when encountering someone with a disability. In fact, if you ask Siri how to talk to someone with a disability, she’ll tell you just how easy it is.

Most of the Coleman Conference focused on adaptive technology that people with disabilities use and what the future of technology might look like in the coming years. As many of you know, some of the challenges we face with technology implementation in our field are limited funding, limits in our knowledge of what’s available, and more often than we may want to admit, our limited vision to experiment and learn. One speaker pointed out that, “if you automatically think the person you care for is not capable of something, you will not look for ways to make them capable.”

It was very exciting for all of us to see that many of the technological advances that were being promoted at these conferences were technology tools Imagine! has been working with for many years. The conferences were excellent example of Imagine!’s leadership associated with technology that can be so easily experienced in our SmartHomes and other services. Here are some key takeaways that we’d like to share:
  1. Technology has to be connected to natural supports. 
  2. Collaboration is key – technology should evolve with input from all team members who will help support the person and their technology. 
  3. Don’t design the technology first and then work to find someone to fit the function of the technology. Work towards fitting the technology to the person and their support needs. 
  4. Technology can be a valuable tool for independence. Therefore, the use of technology should always be assistive so that it is used to help someone achieve greater independence to achieve his/her goals. 
One presenter living with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD), who hosts her own podcast "Tuesdays with Liz," said that, “although I was allowed to think about what I wanted to be when I was 15 years old, just like everybody else, I was the only one that wasn’t allowed to pursue their dream. People told me that I couldn’t be a doctor or a politician because I wouldn’t be capable.” It is so important, as Imagine! team members, that we continuously consider how we can advocate for the immediate and future needs of the individuals and families we support to promote access to information and technologies that promote leisure, social, vocational, and educational opportunities.

The world of technology is exciting, constantly evolving, and vast in its capabilities. The impact this can have on all people has been and will continue to be life changing. It doesn’t require an employee with Apple or Microsoft to make an impact. Technology derives from collaboration, innovation, and cultural influences that spark from a simple idea or dream. And everyone dreams!

Finally, we invite you to take a minute by clicking here to learn more about the Rights of People with Cognitive Disabilities to Technology and Information Access. You can read the document and add your name as a supporter of the Declaration.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Good News Friday!

Today, I’d like to offer my sincere thanks to Dave Query, who is once again treating Imagine! consumers and their families to a traditional turkey dinner on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 24, 2016. This is the 13th year Dave has hosted this event, which will again be at Zolo Southwestern Grill, 2525 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder.

There are three seatings, and all three have filled up already! In all, more than 350 people will benefit from Dave's amazing generosity.

Dave Query is the owner of Big Red F Restaurant Group, including restaurants Centro Latin Kitchen, Jax Fish House – Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins, Glendale, and Kansas City, LoLa Coastal Mexican, Post Brewing Company, West End Tavern, and Zolo Grill.

Dave is donating the makings for a delicious dinner with all the trimmings, and the wait staff is volunteering its time. There is no charge for the meal, and no tips are necessary.

Thanks to Dave and the Zolo staff for making it a Thanksgiving to remember for individuals served by Imagine!.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Person-Centric Theory of the Universe

I’ve been feeling nostalgic recently.

Not for the glory days of my youth, which were mostly spent ski jumping and listening to Three Dog Night.

Can't see the video? Click here

Nope, I’ve been nostalgic for the days when self-determination was the buzz and self-directed services was the practice for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Some 15-20 years ago, there was big push in our field for self-determination: putting resources in the hands of the people who were in the best position (meaning closest to the individual receiving services) to determine how to best use those resources. And with self-direction, this meant the individual, or the family and loved ones, were in control of how funds were spent.

And do you know what? It worked. In fact, I’d argue that it was the best use of resources I’ve seen during my decades of working at Imagine!. Families knew exactly how much they had to spend each year, and were armed with the necessary knowledge to direct the funding wisely. Money was rarely overspent and never “reverted” back to the State. Decisions were made at the closest, most local level possible.

It would have been great for the people in service if it had continued. Of course, it didn’t. You may ask, “why?” From my point of view, the disintegration of the self-determination model came from a lack of trust. In order for a self-determination model to succeed, there has to be a level of trust that the families and the individuals making the decisions about what services they need are knowledgeable and informed. That is the sort of trust that needs to be continually cultivated.

Unfortunately, around 2008, that kind of trust was in short supply. It was determined at the Federal and State levels that there needed to be more “accountability” for how funds were spent; not accountability to the individual being served or to the outcome of those services, but for the funds themselves. Funds were replaced with units. I suppose that makes sense on the surface, but the results were entirely predictable. Control moved from the person needing service to State administration. The move to a fee-for-service funding model and the corresponding rationing of services that came with it meant that those in service received fewer services customized to their needs. Imagine going to the doctor with a broken leg and being told, “We can’t address your leg completely but we do have some time to look at your wrist.”

That’s the world we operate in now, and we at Imagine! have made it work to the best of our ability. But simultaneous with this shift away from the self-determination model, there has been a strong move to promote Person-Centered Thinking from the Federal level down to the local level.

I’m probably going to get some flak for what I am about to say, so let me start by saying that I’m not opposed to the concept of Person-Centered Thinking.

However, I am baffled by the fact that we took the control away from the very people resources are intended to help due to accountability (which, by the way, could have been built in) and replaced it with a conscious effort to think about it instead. Let’s see … on the one hand we had self-direction, and on the other hand we have a conscious effort to think about if you had self-direction, what would you do? And this is progress?

I don’t know the answer to the question above, but I don’t feel great about the path we seem to be taking. There are more efficient and effective ways to fund and deliver services to individuals with I/DD. They have been demonstrated to work and accountability can be built. I just wonder if we’re willing to cultivate the trust necessary to make them work.

Then again, what do I know?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Technology Tuesday

Thanks to the team at Imagine!’s Charles Family SmartHome for providing this week’s Tech Tuesday: an update on the progress of a couple of residents at the home.

We are pleased to announce that Anthony and Shelly are fully set up with their own iPads, accounts, and tools needed for digital accessibility. 

This will enable each of them to: 
  • Manage/view their calendars; appointments, work schedules, holidays, and special outings from anywhere 
  • Create customized reminders & lists with minimal staff supports 
  • Text message/video message (iPad reads sent text messages to them) 
  • Receive Email (iPad reads emails to them) 
  • Video chat (via facetime) 
  • Enjoy their preprogramed favorite music/skill building apps from anywhere 
  • Manage photos & videos, and social media 
  • Control synced environmental controls 
This continues to be a work in progress, but Shelly has had very promising results using a Bluetooth switch for IPad navigation. She is pictured above familiarizing herself with the switch interface. 

Anthony has chosen to take an active role in setting his own doctor’s appointments going forward, using his calendar and reminders, as well as communication with family. 

We’ll keep you posted moving forward!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Fantastic Five - Celebrating Five Years Of Volunteers At Imagine!: Leona Stoecker

Imagine!’s Volunteer Program officially began five years ago (of course, we had volunteers before, but it was a loosely organized effort). To celebrate five years of volunteerism at Imagine!, I am sharing on my blog short videos highlighting five volunteers who have truly made a difference at Imagine!.

Of course, choosing just five volunteers was very difficult – last year 379 volunteers donated 8,784 hours of their time to support Imagine!’s mission of creating a world of opportunity for all abilities! We are grateful to them all, and hope that the five we highlight serve as a great representation of the many generous folks who so kindly give back to their communities.

Today’s video features our fifth and final volunteer highlight: Leona Stoecker. Leona is in many ways Imagine!’s number one community ambassador. She works tirelessly on behalf of Imagine! and the people we serve. You are encouraged to read more about Leona’s support of Imagine! following the short video below.
  Can’t see the video? Click here

Leona Stoecker is a truly remarkable woman who has made a tremendous difference in our community. After more than two decades of direct involvement with government service at the local, county, and regional levels, including serving as Mayor of the City of Longmont from 1993-2001, she has since devoted herself to community service in the non-profit sector. In most cases, she has risen quickly to a position of leadership from which she has been able to guide each organization to strengthen and improve itself and the services it provides. It would be difficult to find another person in our area who has made similar contributions of effort and time or who could match Leona’s ability to rapidly understand a need and to involve and inspire just the right people to help.

Leona’s involvement with the Imagine! Foundation typifies her commitment to all of the non-profits she has served. In 2006, the Foundation board sought to increase awareness of its operations in Longmont, where it supported nearly 1,000 vulnerable members of the community. Research and discussion with Longmont residents led the Foundation board to believe that Leona could be the key to that effort. Board members met with Leona in January 2007, and she attended the annual Imagine! Celebration event later that month, followed by a board meeting in March. She was immediately enthusiastic and truly moved by the work Imagine! does in the community. The Imagine! Foundation signed her up then and there, and she jumped right in!

Leona has gone above and beyond even the Foundation’s greatest hopes in bringing the Imagine! message to Longmont. She has spoken to every Rotary Club, the Philanthropic Educational Organization, grandparent groups of children with developmental disabilities, and many other community organizations. She has talked with senior management and reporters at the Longmont Times-Call and has been able to interest them in developing many stories about Imagine! and its services and clients. She has also invited a large number of people to the Imagine! Celebration, has secured auction items for the event, and has donated a “Year of Baked Bread” (which has sold for up to $2,500!) for seven consecutive years. She has even established an endowment at the Longmont Community Foundation in Imagine!’s name.

Leona has developed a very personal relationship with the residents and staff members at Imagine!’s Charles Family SmartHome. She often rides her bike over to the SmartHome with home-baked cookies to share. When she heard that the SmartHome needed a dining room table, she found a beautiful table top at a consignment store, persuaded the owner to donate it, and then found someone to make the table legs! Because of the deep connection she has with the SmartHome’s residents, she has played an integral part in raising community awareness and funding for the facility. A perfect example is the day she spent at the Charity Hole of the Longmont Chamber’s Commerce Cup Golf Tournament in 2009. As each cart rolled up to the hole – for five hours straight – Leona greeted each foursome with a brochure and a story about Imagine! and the Charles Family SmartHome. Because almost every player already knew and respected Leona, she was able to gently but enthusiastically encourage each person’s support. That event and countless other meetings with potential donors, talks to groups, and scores of SmartHome tours that she set up, accompanied, and often led (34 tours to date involving 179 individuals!) have resulted in critical funding being raised.

What is amazing is that the enormous impact she has had through the Imagine! Foundation board is only ONE example of this marvelous woman’s influence, which has been replicated for the many organizations with which she has been involved throughout her adult life.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Good News Friday!

Colorado Gives Day is December 6, but you can preschedule your gift now!

By giving your support online through Colorado Gives Day, Imagine! will be eligible for a portion of the 1stBank and Community First Foundation incentive fund. You'll help people of all ages served by Imagine!.

Click here to preschedule your gift.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

High Tech, Low Tech, No Tech

As I was driving to work a couple of days ago, I was half-listening to a radio interview with two different experts talking about economic issues relevant to the presidential race.

NOTE: this post is not about politics. Election Day is past. I’m not here to tell you who I voted for or why, or to tell who you should have voted for or why. So you can safely keep reading! 

Anyway, one of the interviewees was discussing job opportunities, and stated that he felt that some people “put too much faith in technology and progress and neglect the fact that about a third of the population is never going to be high tech . . .”

I bristled when I heard him say that. Now, I want to be fair and put the statement in context – I believe he meant that not every job out there would be in the high tech sector, and we need to develop employment options beyond those types of jobs if we want to make our economy stronger (you can listen for yourself for the context using the link above, it’s said at about the 2:30 mark of the segment).

But his choice of words is telling, in my opinion, and is a reflection of the challenge I think we are facing in the world of serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD): a misrepresentation and a misunderstanding of what technology means in 2016.

I get that many people who need work aren’t going to find employment as computer programmers or app developers. They won’t be designing the next iteration of the iPhone or making adjustments to Google’s algorithms. But they can, and will, use technology in their jobs.

The stocker at Wal Mart, the cashier at McDonalds? They use technology all of the time. In fact, the technology they use is quite sophisticated, and probably would have baffled workers in the same positions only ten or twenty years ago. So why is the guy in the radio segment so quick to assume that former steel workers or coal miners can’t or won’t be able to have tech related jobs? In a few years, almost all jobs will be tech related in some way.

Which brings me to our field. I fear that when people hear that Imagine! wants to use technology as an aspect of our mission of creating a world of opportunity for all abilities, they assume we are talking about incredibly complex futuristic ideas, where the human aspect of providing care is absent. And while I’m not opposed to pie-in-the-sky technologies, they aren’t really the focus of what I’d like to see in terms of tech use for opening the doors to self-reliance for people with I/DD.

A quick example. We’ve shared before how some of the individuals we serve use task prompters on their smart phones to help them find and keep employment. Sounds exotic, right? Well, if you have ever used the map feature on your smart phone, you’ve used a task prompter, too. It helped to guide you to your destination in a step-by-step manner.

Returning to the gentleman in the interview, I reject the notion that a third of our population is never going to be high tech. They already are. And I reject those who say technology isn’t providing answers for bringing about better, life-long outcomes for individuals with I/DD. It already is.

Then again, what do I know?

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Technology Tuesday

Imagine!’s own Brodie Schultz, who works for our CORE/Labor Source (CLS) department, has built a life-sized Halloween-themed “Operation” game (pictured above). Brodie constructed this game with the help of a tool we’ve discussed in the past: Makey-Makey, along with SoundPlant.

Obviously the game is cool, but it goes beyond that. A life-sized game such as this makes it accessible for people who may lack fine motor skills or who use wheelchairs (which can make accessing the traditional sized game boards difficult). The game was a huge hit at last week’s CLS Halloween party. In the video below, Brodie’s supervisor Tim West-Heiss demonstrates the game.

Way to go, Brodie!
  Can’t see the video? Click here.

Monday, November 7, 2016

You Cannot Be Serious

I recently came across a blog post from the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living. The title of the post, “Tips for Providers Transitioning to an Integrated Employment Model,” brought one thought instantly to my mind: “you cannot be serious!”

Can't see the video? Click here.

Why, in 2016, is this still an issue? Why is the government still offering organizations grants to be doing something that the organizations should have done years ago? Why are sheltered workshops even still a thing?

Imagine! began its first supported employment program back in 1984. Those services, which came eventually to become an integral part of Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source department, demonstrated clearly that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) could successfully work real jobs for real companies out in the community. We’re still demonstrating that fact today. Plenty of other organizations, both locally and nationally, are doing exactly the same.

Throughout the 80s and 90s, whenever I attended conferences about services for people with I/DD generally and supported employment services in particular, the refrain was constant and consistent: the days of sheltered workshops were over.

And yet, here we are in 2016, and I guess we haven’t come as far as I thought. That unhappy thought made me think of the many other ways that Imagine! has demonstrated that there are better, more effective ways to ensure that the population of people with I/DD have opportunities to become contributing members of their communities. We’ve experimented with family-directed services, family recruited employees, web-based medication prompting and alert systems, web-based family directed case management and service provider selection, and remote monitoring services just to name a few.

Will we have to wait 25 years for incentives to do what should be done today? As a field, we seem stuck in our traditional patterns and I’m not sure there’s a way out. I hate admitting that, but perhaps today I’m just feeling the frustration brought on by the blog post mentioned above.

I know that there are so many chances out there to open the doors of opportunity for people with I/DD. Those of us in the field, the advocates, the providers, and the regulators, shouldn’t be the ones keeping those doors locked shut. Yet, too often that seems to be the case.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, November 4, 2016

Good News Friday!

Today I’d like to share some opportunities for you to see (and purchase) fantastic artwork by individuals who accept services from Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source (CLS) department. Longmont CLS's Art & Work class is having an art show at the Red Frog Coffee Shop in Longmont for the month of November. All artwork is for sale!

And the next time you visit Imagine!’s administrative office at 1400 Dixon Ave in Lafayette, you are encouraged to take a tour and check out the CLS artwork gracing our walls. If you like what you see, all of the new artwork on display is for sale via the CLS Etsy webpage ImagineColoradoArt.

Check out just a few examples from our Dixon office below.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Technology Tuesday

I have very exciting news to share for today’s Tech Tuesday.

Imagine!’s Director of Business Operations and tech guru Greg Wellems has been invited to participate in the White House Disability and Inclusive Technology Summit. This summit will bring together disability advocates, technology industry representatives, and Federal officials to examine approaches to ensure that the Internet of Things is accessible and that inclusive design is central to tech development. The Summit will take place next Monday, November 7.

This invitation is a reflection of both Greg’s and Imagine!’s longtime leadership in the arena of using technology to better serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and we couldn’t be more proud.