Friday, December 30, 2011

Good News Friday!

Here’s a nice story for the New Year.

A group of University of Colorado College of Engineering students in a 2011 Fall Semester class taught by Associate Professor Melinda Piket-May worked on projects to design simple adaptive technologies that aid increased independence for some of the individuals Imagine! serves.

For example, in one project, students built an adaptive Wii board that allows individuals who use wheelchairs to play Wii games. Below is a video of the students demonstrating their project.

Can’t see the video? Click here

Now, check out this video of Imagine!’s Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome resident Donna using the adaptive Wii board at the home.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Below, please enjoy some short videos of other projects from the students.

An Adjustable Assistive Wall Mounted Arm

Can’t see the video? Click here.

A Wheelchair Laundry Attachment

Can’t see the video? Click here.

A Reprogrammable Remote

Can’t see the video? Click here.

An Adjustable Shelf

Can’t see the video? Click here. 

Another Adjustable Shelf

Can’t see the video? Click here.

An Adaptive Stroller

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Thanks to Professor Piket-May and especially the students for their hard work.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Good News Friday!

Season’s Greetings!

Here’s wishing all of my blog readers the happiest of holidays, and a safe and prosperous New Year!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Five Ways to Navigate the Fiscal Crisis

Every once in awhile, I will come across an article or book that almost feels as if it is speaking directly to those of us in the field of serving individuals with one or more developmental disabilities. Today, I’d like to share such an article.

The article is titled “Five Ways to Navigate the Fiscal Crisis,” witten by Daniel Stid and Willa Seldon, and appeared in the winter edition of the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

As I read the article I kept finding myself nodding in agreement, and a couple of times I might have even said “exactly!” out loud, even though I was by myself.

It hit so close to home, I felt I just had to share. Below are excerpts from the article that I found especially compelling, and which give a sort of “Reader’s Digest” version of the article. If you find the information below relevant and relatable, I encourage you to check out the entire article.
The head of a large nonprofit that has been serving children and families since the 19th century and that gets most of its funding from state and local government recently told us: “We have never had the chance to sit down across the table from government and discuss line-by-line what it takes to do the work. They call the terms, they put the dollars on the table, they give the staffing patterns, and you can take it or leave it."
And increasingly, government agencies not only are outsourcing the financing of these services, they are also reimbursing nonprofits considerably less than what it costs to deliver them. These organizations are left to cobble together their own resources from other funding sources to make up the difference.
The long-term outlook for human services funding is bleak.
This brings us to the questions we take up in this article: How can nonprofits that rely on government funding navigate this increasingly powerful undertow? How can they stay afloat? And can they even hope to make progress? The sobering reality is that nonprofits will have to be even more entrepreneurial in their funding models, efficient in deploying their resources, and vigilant in serving their mission to make headway.
The government agency typically sets the price, and in cashstrapped times like these, may keep it flat or reset it downward as it sees fit. Prices often fail to cover the full cost of those services. In the Urban Institute survey of nonprofit government contractors, 68 percent of respondents identified this failure to cover the full cost of delivery as a problem.
Government also leverages its market power to squeeze nonprofits further by changing the terms and driving the execution of these contracts in its favor. The Urban Institute survey also reported that 57 percent of nonprofits responding see government changes to contracts and grants as a problem.
Faced with deteriorating conditions, why don’t nonprofit service providers simply walk away? The harsh truth is that they can’t. Nonprofits are prepared to accept poor contract prices and endure readjustments in prices and terms and even badly delayed payments—simply to keep their missions afloat.
Approaches to Staying Afloat
In the highly constrained world of public funding, can a nonprofit delivering superior outcomes do anything more than take the price, accept the terms, provide the service, and hope that things don’t get worse? Do nonprofits have any hope of agency—of having influence or exerting power? Though we have found nothing resembling a formula, we have seen some nonprofits rising to the challenge as tough times become the “new normal.” Below are five approaches that seem to be working for the most ambitious human services nonprofits.
1. Get to Strategic Clarity. The first step in getting to strategic clarity is to set priorities for where, how, and with whom you seek to have impact. The second step in getting to strategic clarity is to understand the true cost of each program or set of services the agency provides. By “true” we mean direct costs (frontline staff, rent for service delivery sites) plus indirect costs (that program’s share of management, information technology, and other agency-wide costs). The third and final step in getting to strategic clarity is to make better decisions about whether or how to pursue a particular opportunity for government funding.
2. Diversify Government Funding Streams. For nonprofits that get the majority of their revenue from government sources, diversifying funding across different government agencies, programs, and contracts can help sustain organizations against declining revenues. In fact, this is a common strategy. Most human service nonprofits hold multiple government contracts. But too often this diversification is driven by opportunism that strains organizations, not a strategic design that plays to their strengths and sustains their missions. Supplementing government contract revenue with contributions from other sources may be essential.
3. Improve Productivity. The drive to improve productivity has long lagged in the nonprofit sector, in large part because of the prevalence of input-based funding and the ambiguity about what nonprofits are “producing.” There are signs, however, that leading human services providers are sharpening their focus on productivity.
4. Measure Outcomes. Given the nascent state of performance based government contracting, it may seem odd for this approach to show up on our list. Yet if the goal is to stay focused on mission, then measuring outcomes is essential. All too often, outcomes measurement is something nonprofits feel obliged to do for reporting to external parties. But the real power of measuring outcomes is to drive internal learning about how the work is going and planning how it can be improved. Viewed in this way, rather than being a burdensome quarterly or annual fire drill to comply with funder reporting requirements, outcomes measurement can become a powerful way for leaders and staff to connect with and advance their organization’s mission.
5. Move Beyond Vendorism. Among the nonprofit leaders we have talked to and worked with, we have noted that the organizations most effective in engaging government are distinguished not so much by a particular set of activities as by a certain mindset. They see the decision makers in government agencies as customers. They try to understand their concerns and unmet needs, and they design compelling solutions

Take It or Leave It?
"It is dangerous to be right,” observed Voltaire, “when the government is wrong.” We have heard a great deal of anxiety that, in an era of shrinking budgets, the current situation only will get worse, resulting in less funding at all levels of government and more limits on the already limited autonomy of nonprofits seeking to provide high-quality services.
But within this $100 billion sector—one upon which so many vulnerable people depend—we believe there remains some room to maneuver. The five approaches we have sketched out hardly guarantee success. Within the system’s numerous constraints, nonprofits have been employing these approaches to get beyond a take it or leave it relationship with their government funders—keeping their eyes on their mission and doing the best they know how for the people and communities they serve.
Thank you, Stanford Social Innovation Review, for hitting the nail right on the head.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Good News Friday

I mentioned last week that I would be attending the Imagine! Holiday Party and honoring Imagine!’s Employees of Distinction.

Another person was honored that evening – Imagine!’s 2011 Consumer of the Year, Lindsey Newell. The video below demonstrates why Lindsey was selected. She has made great strides in the past year, and while her entire support team deserves credit for helping her achieve, in the end, it was Lindsey’s hard work and dedication that made her so deserving of this award.

Congratulations, Lindsey!

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Good News Friday!

Tonight I will have the great pleasure of attending Imagine!’s Annual Holiday Party. A highlight of this festive evening will be the honoring of Imagine!’s 2011 Employees of Distinction. These six employees, selected from a large number of deserving nominees, exemplify the best of Imagine! and inspire me everyday.

So today I’d like to be the first to introduce these phenomenal employees, along with a brief quote from their nominations demonstrating what makes their work so impressive.

Congratulations to all of Imagine!’s 2011 Employees of Distinction!

Anna Barton

“Anna has the ability to be solution-focused while always having the best interest of the consumer in mind. Her advocacy for children at the local, county, and state levels is amazing.”

Jason Gillespie

“Consumers seem to build an immediate relationship with Jason due to his warm nature and also his ability to encourage the consumers to grow and become more independent.”

Eva Klemens

“Eva is well known throughout Imagine! for her compassion and energy. She is highly respected by her peers and appreciated by her patients because of the way she treats others.”

Cynthia Kruez-Uhr

“Imagine!'s Mission and Values include improving the quality of life of consumers, and Cynthia definitely achieves that for the young women at Tenino House.”

Caitlin Looney

“Caitlin consistently stays focused on people as human beings. She puts a premium on human regard--whether it is toward Out & About participants, family members, or other staff members.”

Tom Riley

“Tom places a great emphasis on continual growth for all consumers in services so they can apply their skills to their jobs and when interacting with friends, family, and the community.”

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Today Is Colorado Gives Day

Today is Colorado Gives Day, and Imagine! is again participating. Donations made online Imagine!'s website (using any of the “Donate Here” buttons) today will also be eligible for partial matching funds.

The “Donate Here” button takes you directly to the Community First Foundation site and saves the 5.5% bank fee for credit card donations.

Last year individuals donated $4,675 to Imagine! on Colorado Gives Day, and we received $177.68 in matching funds from the Circle of Giving Incentive Fund. But $8.4 million was donated across Colorado last year, and $320,000 in incentive funds were given out, so we have room to grow!

If you are thinking about making a gift to Imagine! before the end of the calendar year, please consider doing it online today (you can also designate donated funds to be directed toward specific Imagine! programs in the “Any comments or special instructions” box if you would like).

Monday, December 5, 2011

Help To Focus On The Future

I have written many times about how the current Colorado system of delivering and funding services to individuals with one or more developmental disabilities is in a state of crisis and unsustainable.

I’m not alone in that view, and it is clear now that changes to the system are coming. Alliance, a state-wide organization dedicated to enhancing and strengthening community supports for people with developmental disabilities in Colorado, recently completed a report entitled “Focus on the Future.” The report was created to identify what is working and what is not working in the system, in the hope that the decisions made about changing the system moving forward will be made with knowledge of what is best for the end users in the system (the people we serve). The report was made after several months of gathering opinions and ideas from a wide ranging group of stakeholders from across the state.

Even though the report is complete, Alliance is still seeking feedback. You can still have a role in influencing the future of services to some of our most vulnerable citizens by taking a short (no more than five minutes) survey about the recommendations found in the report.

You can find a copy of the report here. Pages 12 to 17 of the report contain the recommendations.

You can take the survey by clicking here. The survey lists all of the recommendations.

Here’s a little more about the Focus on the Future project:

The project consisted of two key phases. In Phase One, five regional Focus Groups met to gather input to identify what’s working/not working and aspects of the service delivery system that must stay the same or must change. People receiving services and families were the starting point of the project and composed 68% of the focus group participants. Phase Two was the Workgroup Phase where system stakeholders were invited to join the Alliance Project Steering Committee to formulate recommendations for change. Workgroup participants included people with varied backgrounds and experiences.

The Workgroup analyzed five problems they identified as the root cause of the issues expressed by focus group participants:

1. The System is too complex;
2. Resources are not allocated in a way that meets people’s needs;
3. System focus is not first and foremost the person;
4. We don’t have formal systematic mechanisms to self direct I/DD services; and
5. We don’t have the data infrastructure to assess our system.

The workgroup developed recommendations to address these five problems, which can be found in the report linked above.

As Alliance notes, this is a time of unprecedented change for services and supports to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It is my hope that the people in charge of making those changes will use this report as a guide when implementing those changes.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Good News Friday!

Last month, Imagine! was notified that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced $2.54 million to fund housing for very low-income persons with disabilities here in Colorado.

Even more exciting, Imagine! will receive $633,700 of those funds to build a home in east Broomfield for six people who have developmental disabilities as well as the more complex issues that come with aging. This is a need that will continue to grow as the “Silver Tsunami” gets bigger and more and more individuals with developmental disabilities will find themselves facing elder care concerns as well. HUD will also provide Imagine! $68,100 to pay for maintenance and upkeep of the home for three years.

The home will incorporate green building standards and will be designed with universal design standards to better meet the physical and programmatic needs of its residents. The home will also be constructed to accommodate state-of-the-art technologies to improve the service and support of its residents.

You can read an article about the grant from a recent edition of the “Broomfield Enterprise” by clicking here.

We are so grateful for HUD’s support in helping Imagine! meet a need that is becoming more urgent by the day. I also want to personally thank the many local and national community leaders who wrote letters of support for us during the application process, including:

Suzanne Bazinet, Broomfield Senior Services 
Michael Bennet, United States Senator
Reggie Bicha, Colorado Department of Human Services
Sue Birch, Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing
Debra Oldenettel, Broomfield Health and Human Services 
Roxanne Pinneo, North Metro Community Services 
Jared Polis, United States Congressman 
Jayla Sanchez-Warren, Denver Regional Council of Governments Area Agency on Aging
Karen Smith, Broomfield Community Foundation
Betsy Tarpley, Broomfield Chamber of Commerce “Leadership Broomfield” Program
Sam Taylor, Broomfield City Council
Two Imagine! consumers, Tavio and Barbara
Mark Udall, United States Senator 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Good News Friday!

Thanksgiving Day was yesterday, so I thought today would be an appropriate time to say thanks to some of the many people, organizations, and businesses that help support Imagine! in its mission to create and offer innovative supports to people of all ages with cognitive, developmental, physical, and health related needs so they may live fulfilling lives of independence and quality in their homes and communities.

First of all, thank you to Imagine! Foundation donors. Since the Imagine! Foundation was founded a little more than 10 years ago, it has raised more than $4.5 million dollars to support Imagine! families and consumers. In the last fiscal year (7/1/10 - 6/30/11) alone, nearly 850 generous individuals, organizations, and companies made cash and in-kind contributions to the Imagine! Foundation.

You can find a list of all donors to the Imagine! Foundation by clicking here.

Secondly, thank you to all the businesses in Boulder and Broomfield counties that have already discovered the benefits of using CORE/Labor Source supported employment work crews as part of their workforce. Supported employment offers people who have a developmental disability the opportunity to develop vital job skills and to become active and contributing members of their communities.

Learn more, and see a complete list of businesses employing Imagine! consumers, by clicking here.

Finally, I’d like to offer my thanks to all Imagine! employees. We are so fortunate here at Imagine! to have so many talented and passionate people who are dedicated to those we serve.

I can’t say it enough – thank you!

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Post For Sharing

With a short week and the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, I thought today I’d keep it simple, and just share a couple of interesting items I came across recently.

First, a “Sherman’s Lagoon” comic from yesterday. As proud as I am of Imagine!’s SmartHomes, all of us associated with the homes experience frustration from time to time when the technologies in the home don’t work quite the way they are supposed to. I believe strongly that technology will have a prominent role in the future of services for some of our most vulnerable citizens, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still have a sense of humor about the difficulties we sometimes face in making that goal a reality! 

And second, I’d like to share some tips on Disability Etiquette I found on the Easter Seals website. These tips ably demonstrate that while some of us may struggle with what it means to be “politically correct,” there should be no struggle with demonstrating personal etiquette to any person we interact with, regardless of their ability/disability.

Disability Etiquette 

People with disabilities are entitled to the same courtesies you would extend to anyone, including personal privacy. If you find it inappropriate to ask people about their sex lives, or their complexions, or their incomes, extend the courtesy to people with disabilities.

• If you don't make a habit of leaning or hanging on people, don't lean or hang on someone's wheelchair. Wheelchairs are an extension of personal space.
• When you offer to assist someone with a vision impairment, allow the person to take your arm. This will help you to guide, rather than propel or lead, the person.
• Treat adults as adults. Call a person by his or her first name only when you extend this familiarity to everyone present. Don't patronize people who use wheelchairs by patting them on the head. Reserve this sign of affection for children.

In conversation...

• When talking with someone who has a disability, speak directly to him or her, rather than through a companion who may be along.
• Relax. Don't be embarrassed if you happen to use common expressions, such as "See you later" or "I've got to run", that seem to relate to the person's disability.
• To get the attention of a person who has a hearing disability, tap the person on the shoulder or wave your hand. Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly and expressively to establish if the person can read your lips. Not everyone with hearing impairments can lip-read. Those who do will rely on facial expressions and other body language to help understand. Show consideration by facing a light source and keeping your hands and food away from your mouth when speaking. Keep mustaches well-trimmed. Shouting won't help, but written notes will.
• When talking with a person in a wheelchair for more than a few minutes, place yourself at the wheelchair user's eye level to spare both of you a stiff neck.
• When greeting a person with a severe loss of vision, always identify yourself and others who may be with you. Say, for example, "On my right is Andy Clark". When conversing in a group, remember to say the name of the person to whom you are speaking to give vocal cue. Speak in a normal tone of voice, indicate when you move from one place to another, and let it be known when the conversation is at an end.
• Give whole, unhurried attention when you're talking to a person who has difficulty speaking. Keep your manner encouraging rather than correcting, and be patient rather than speak for the person. When necessary, ask questions that require short answers or a nod or shake of the head. Never pretend to understand if you are having difficulty doing so. Repeat what you understand. The person's reaction will guide you to understanding.

Common courtesies...

• If you would like to help someone with a disability, ask if he or she needs it before you act, and listen to any instructions the person may want to give.
• When giving directions to a person in a wheelchair, consider distance, weather conditions and physical obstacles such as stairs, curbs and steep hills.
• When directing a person with a visual impairment, use specifics such as "left a hundred feet" or "right two yards".
• Be considerate of the extra time it might take a person with a disability to get things done or said. Let the person set the pace in walking and talking.
• When planning events involving persons with disabilities, consider their needs ahead of time. If an insurmountable barrier exists, let them know about it prior to the event.

Here’s wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Good News Friday!

Today I’d like to welcome Alexander Ndubuisi Otakpor to the Imagine! community.

Alex has begun an internship under the supervision of Dr. Jeff Kupfer and other Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) team members of Imagine!’s Behavioral Health Services (IBHS) department. Alex is a Nigerian citizen and permanent resident of the United States of America. He is a Child Psychiatrist holding a tenure appointment with the University of Benin School of Medicine, located in Benin City, Nigeria.

The internship program began on October 10 and is scheduled to last six months. This supervised training will qualify Alex to take the BCBA examination, as he has completed the prescribed course work with the Florida Institute of Technology.

The motivation behind Alex’s efforts to become BCBA Certified is quite inspiring.

According to the World Bank, the population of Nigeria is 158 million, and yet, there are only around twenty trained Child Psychiatrists in the entire nation. And the lack of Child Psychiatrists is only one of many challenges facing individuals needing behavioral and psychiatric services in the country.

What sort of challenges? It is hard to decide where to start. For example, total expenditure on healthcare in Nigeria was an estimated 2.6% of GDP in 2008. At around $28 per person, spending on healthcare in Nigeria was lower than in most other Sub-Saharan countries. In fact, the UN Human Development Report of 2009 ranked Nigeria 189th out of 194 countries in relation to public expenditure on health as a share of total government expenditure.

In the face of this limited expenditure on healthcare, Nigeria faces extreme healthcare challenges. Of the 7.6 million children under the age of five who died in 2010, 11% percent of them were from Nigeria.  Because most of the major killers of children under age five (including pneumonia, diarrheal diseases, preterm birth complications, under-nutrition, and malaria) are “curative” diseases, the majority of the already paltry health care spending in Nigeria goes to address those conditions.

Even with better funding, Alex notes that among many Nigerian families, there is a certain stigma attached to having a developmental disability or mental health issue (in fact, the two separate health related issues are often seen as the same thing), making them reluctant to seek out treatment.

As a result of all of these challenges, the very few facilities in Nigeria designed to serve individuals with developmental disabilities or mental heath needs provide only the barest of services, mostly meeting basic needs such as food and shelter.

The list of challenges mentioned above would seem to be overwhelming. But Alex doesn’t see it that way. He’s determined to improve the lives of his fellow Nigerian citizens who have developmental disabilities or mental heath needs.

After he receives his BCBA Certification, Alex is planning to go back to Nigeria to demonstrate the effectiveness of Applied Behavioral Analysis treatment methods and to train others how to use those methods, to better prepare his country to meet the needs of this woefully underserved population.

Alex’s commitment to his fellow countrymen and women serves as a model to all of us in the field of serving those with developmental disabilities. We all face challenges in the day-to-day administration of our duties, but we should always remember that those challenges don’t need to prevent us from meeting our greater goal of providing opportunities for those we serve.

Thank you, Alex, for all you do, and I hope we can help you in meeting your goal as much as you have already helped us in clarifying why we at Imagine! do the work we do.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ignore The Squirrel

Many of you who own a dog (and even those of you who don’t) will find the clip below easy to relate to.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

In the video above, Dug the Dog is in the process of demonstrating an amazing collar built by his master that allows him to speak to humans. Even in the midst of this profound disclosure, he is distracted by the sight of a squirrel right in the middle of his explanation.

We all know dogs that are easily distracted. I think that if we are being honest with ourselves, we should also admit that sometimes those of us in the field of serving individuals with one or more developmental disabilities can also get easily distracted by many varieties of “squirrels.”

This came to mind last week as I took part in a meeting of Imagine!’s Strategic Planning team. This team, made up of Imagine! employees from across the organization, is charged with identifying where Imagine! wants to be at some point in the future, and determining how we are going to get there.

I feel strongly that our strategic planning process is one of the most important things we do at Imagine!. I think it has helped us keep a steady ship despite the very rough seas that the system for funding and delivering services in Colorado has been sailing in the past several years. I think it has positioned us to be ready and proactive in the face of impending change, rather than being forced into a reactive position when options for responding to change are much more limited, and often less than desirable.

In other words, our strategic planning team has allowed us to stay focused and to ignore the many squirrels that are constantly scampering about. We have been prepared and able to react when facing new barriers and new distractions. We have stayed true to our missions and the needs of those we serve.

This isn’t to say that goals should never change. But in the absence of goals, it is easy to get off track, because no track really exists. Making it up as you go along is not a recipe for success in any field, and certainly not one where the lives of some very vulnerable citizens are at stake. Too many of the decisions made in our field have been made lately not as part of a strategy to meet a defined goal, but instead have been made because there is a vacuum where the goals should be residing.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Good News Friday

Dave Query
For the 8th year, Dave Query and the Big Red F Restaurant Group will host a free Thanksgiving Dinner for Imagine! clients and their families at Zolo Southwestern Grill. Query is a former Imagine! Foundation board member and owner of Big Red F, which includes Boulder restaurants Centro Latin Kitchen and Refreshment Palace, the Bitter Bar, Jax Fish House, West End Tavern, and Zolo, Denver restaurants Jax Fish House and LoLa Coastal Mexican, and the new Jax Fish House in Fort Collins. Query is donating the makings for a delicious Zolo-style Thanksgiving repast with all the trimmings, and the wait staff is volunteering its time. Three seatings are offered, allowing nearly 400 people to enjoy this lovely celebration of Thanksgiving.

Thanks, Dave, for all you do for your community!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Change For Change's Sake

A long while back, someone introduced me to the video below. I thought it would be worth our while to revisit it, and consider what we may learn from it.

Can't see the video?  Click here.

The video was produced an organization called “Playing for Change,” which, according to the organization’s website, is “. . . a multimedia movement created to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music. The idea for this project arose from a common belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. No matter whether people come from different geographic, political, economic, spiritual or ideological backgrounds, music has the universal power to transcend and unite us as one human race.”

As I watched the video above, I was really struck by the amount of planning that must have taken place to create the seamless song while recording talented musicians in natural environments across the globe You have to believe that Mark Johnson knew what the end result of the production would be. No doubt much time and preparation went into deciding what equipment to use, how to transport the equipment, where to record, which musicians to record, etc. Clearly, planning was, and remains, a huge part of making Playing for Change successful.

It started me thinking about the nature of change, and how we must be careful to plan and prepare if we want change to be successful.

Now maybe you are saying to yourself, “Wait a minute, Mark! Aren’t you the one who is always out there pushing for change in our system? Why so cautious all of the sudden?”

Yes, I believe the system of funding and delivering services is in need of a dramatic overhaul. But I don’t believe in change simply for change’s sake. I believe in change that has a purpose and goal behind it, change that is implemented after a great deal of thought has been put not only into the how and the why of the change, but also what consequences (positive and negative) are likely to occur because of the changes. We should have a shared vision of the result of a change, before implementation.

I am saying this now because I believe we are at a crossroads in our State when it comes to funding and delivering services to some of our most vulnerable citizens. Community Centered Boards, providers, and funding agencies all seem to acknowledge that it is time for change. The opportunity is here to truly improve our system, and thus improve the lives of those we serve.

But I worry that some proposed changes may be the result of knee jerk reactions, without proper consideration as to what the changes will really bring about. We’re not having the important and necessary conversations about outcomes. We’re not setting goals, goals that will keep us focused even if the strategies to reach those goals change over time.

Before we start making changes and completely overhauling any system, we need to do our homework, plan first, and establish our goals. If we want to create a seamless song like the one in the video, the planning we do first will make the difference between a beautiful rendition of the song and a cacophonous mess. We’ve already done the latter, I think aiming for the former this time will benefit us all.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Good News Friday!

Today, I’d like to share a success story that members of Imagine!’s Out & About department recently shared with me. Though the story itself is brief, I hope you will notice that it was truly a collaborative effort between two different departments at Imagine! and a contracted provider. It is a great example of how working together as a team can bring about positive results for those we serve.

Congratulations to all involved for coordinating a true team effort!

“Johnny” (not his real name) has been attending Out & About for many years. Two years ago he began receiving behavioral services through Imagine!’s Behavioral Health Services (IBHS) for some challenging behaviors that emerged as he transitioned into a group home from his family home. Out & About has worked closely with Behavior Therapist, Mariah Loftin, to collaborate on Johnny’s Behavioral Support Plan.

Now, two years later, Johnny is being discharged from IBHS due to the success of the collaboration, interventions, and Johnny’s continued development towards independence.

Additionally, Out & About collaborates with a local Speech Therapist who works with Johnny. Out & About’s Therapeutic Team member, Stephanie Tilley, works with Johnny’s speech therapist to bring speech interventions and information about his communication device to Out & About. Johnny’s ability to independently communicate in the community has significantly increased due to the consistency of supports offered in his different daily environments.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thank You, Governor Hickenlooper

Henry Sobanet, the Director of the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budget, recently released some of the key components of Governor John Hickenlooper’s budget for Fiscal Year 2012-13. The Governor’s new budget proposal requests resources for 173 people with developmental disabilities in emergency and high risk situations.

Imagine! knows more than 2,800 individuals with developmental disabilities and their families in Boulder and Broomfield counties, hundreds of whom are waiting for State funded services and supports. The financial and emotional challenges that these individuals and their families face twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week are tremendous. The proposed new resources will help provide a safety net, especially when a caregiver can no longer care for their loved one.

On behalf of Imagine!, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Governor Hickenlooper, Chief of Staff Roxanne White, Budget Director Sobanet, and their staff for their hard work on a difficult budget and for their demonstrated commitment to our state’s most vulnerable citizens.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Good News Friday!

Several months ago, Claire Findlay, Imagine!’s Family Support Navigator, facilitated a collaboration that centered on the need for José, a 70 pound child, to be able to access his bedroom, kitchen, and family area without having to be carried by a family member.

Claire and the family applied for assistance through The A.V. Hunter Trust, the Home Builders Foundation (HBF) of Metro, and Accessible Systems, Inc. HBF provided free labor and building materials to help lay concrete and install an outdoor lift (which they determined as the best option after their two at-home evaluations). Accessible Systems sold the lift at a discounted price of $3,800 (regularly $4,600). The AV Hunter Trust contributed $2,500 towards the cost of the lift.

The remainder of the funding for the lift came from Family Support and Imagine!’s emergency fund. The project was completed on Friday, October 21, and the family is successfully using the lift to transport José to the second story level of the home.

This has been a collaborative effort among all the above mentioned organizations and people. Kudos to all involved in this project, especially Claire, José, and his family!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sliced Bread: The Greatest Thing Since Itself

In the late 1920s, when sliced bread was introduced to the world, I am told my grandmother's response was, "What has the world come to when a person doesn't slice her own bread?" Maybe things haven't changed much.

We have become very comfortable with manipulations of Mother Nature's work - up to a point. We seem to be OK with changing our appearance; the color, length, curl or removal of hair; we gain and lose weight, change the color of our eyes with contacts, and add or subtract accordingly, wherever Mother Nature delivered too much or too little on our behalf.

We seem to be OK with altering the performance potential of our bodies with performance enhancing drugs, laser surgery for vision, hearing adaptations, and joint replacements. We are OK with prosthetics for a variety of missing features, or even organ replacements.

We do these things in order to thrive. Yet we seem uncomfortable when it comes to cognition; help remembering, reminding, reading, writing, and a variety of tasks that require us to think.

Really? Hmmmmm ... Let's see ...

We are OK with an alarm clock, lights that turn on as we enter a room, faucets that automatically turn on and off, toilets that flush, doors that automatically open and close, phones that Bluetooth to cars, cars that alert us about other drivers, brake for themselves, and know when it is raining.

I have spelling auto-correction as I write this. I can even have it typed as I speak, and read back to me when I am finished. We are seeing people let others know where they are by checking in on Facebook.

Even my phone knows where it is and can let me know where to find it, and don't get me started about what credit card use discloses about my life. Many of my bills never reach my attention. They are simply paid each month and I get a notice that I am in good standing.

Yet I still sense we have some level of discomfort and trust when the same or similar tools are considered for use for the benefit of those with cognitive disabilities.

Why? I am not exactly sure. Kinda "big brotherish"? Too risky? Somebody might get hurt, or taken advantage of? Loss of personal contact?

Frankly, I don't consider the loss of a person whom I did not choose, who is paid to be with me, too tough to take. This, of course exempts my professional agent and masseuse.

I know - what is the world coming to?

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Good News Friday!

I often talk about the potential of technology to improve the lives of the individuals we serve. Today, I’d like to share a few videos demonstrating some of the efforts we’ve undertaken so far to explore that potential here at Imagine!. I hope you will be as impressed as I am when watching the videos and reading what is happening in them.

In the first video, Eddie, a individual served by Imagine!, is using technology to learn the first step in communicating on his own by pushing a button to indicate choices. If he pushes the button, he can see clips from his favorite movie, "The Hangover."

That may seem simple, but for someone like Eddie, who has never had the capability to verbally or physically indicate his preferences to others, the simple act of making his own choice is a profound first step toward independence. Simply choosing to see the video or not helps him become an emergent communicator, and change a lifelong mindset of dependence. Using Boardmaker software by Mayer Johnson, Eddie is learning about cause and effect, and beginning to recognize that he can have control over his choices.

This is only an initial step in what will be a long and arduous process. But it is a great example of how technology can change the lives of even those who have spent their entire lives with significant physical and developmental disabilities and have not had the opportunity to direct their own life choices.

This next video is of an EAC, or Educational Activity Curriculum. The activity is called Connect 5, and is in many senses a modified tic-tac-toe board. The board contains 25 squares (five across and five down). The board is further broken down into four color-coded quadrants: red, blue, yellow, and green.

The game is played as follows: each player begins by selecting either the corner square in any of the quadrants, or the center square. From there, the player may then move up to 3 times in any (allowed) direction before selecting a square. The player may choose a square at any time during those three moves. Players with two adjacent playing pieces receive 5 points, 3 pieces receive 10 points, 4 pieces receive 15 points, and 5 automatically wins the game. Games may be played until a player places 5 squares in a row, or until a player reaches a predetermined score.

This activity is designed for users with communication devices, as well as those without. This activity allows players to learn colors, directions, communication device navigation (where applicable), peer socialization, and turn taking. Any of these skills can be learned by any player at any time, and multiple skills can be learned by multiple individuals, all through one activity, thus maximizing the efficacy of the staff member facilitating (The activity is designed for 2-10 participants, where possible).

Most importantly, the learning process is fun!

This last video is especially impressive. The good folks at Twisted Pine Brewery in Boulder have demonstrated their commitment to providing supported employment to those with significant needs by carving out a special position for Gerald. For those of you who don't know him, Gerald lives in the Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome in Boulder. Gerald has significant physical disabilities, including limited mobility and a limited ability to communicate vocally. Over the past few years, however, Gerald has used an assistive communication device called a DynaVox to improve his ability to communicate his needs and desires. He has also used the device to begin to learn how to read, write, and do arithmetic -- at the age of 48!

Twisted Pine has been collaborating with Gerald, Imagine!'s CORE/Labor Source department, and the staff members at the SmartHome to create some tasks that Gerald can perform at Twisted Pine using his DynaVox, including assisting with inventory.

Think about that -- someone who couldn't count to 10 a few short years ago is now doing inventory work for his employer!

This video shows Gerald counting inventory at Twisted Pine.

If you are having problems seeing any of the videos above, just visit Imagine!’s YouTube page – you’ll find the videos described above, and plenty more!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Good News Friday!

Today, I'd like to share a success story from Imagine!'s Behavioral Health Services (IBHS) team. The story is a great example of how a combination of knowledge, hard work, and creativity can lead to extremely positive outcomes. Congratulations to all the staff at IBHS.

Timmy (not his real name) was 30 months old when he was referred to IBHS, or Imagine! Behavioral Health Services. A delightful child who makes eye contact readily, smiles and laughs often while interacting with others, Timmy also used intense and unsafe behaviors that were difficult to understand and manage, including biting, scratching, hitting, and pulling others’ hair, screaming for long hours during the day and night, mouthing feces, and banging his head on hard surfaces. This situation baffled his team of therapists for two years before they asked IBHS for help in the form of a Functional Behavior Assessment.

IBHS began by conducting a Functional Behavior Assessment (or FBA) to understand Timmy’s interaction with his environment, in order to develop his individual behavior treatment plan. IBHS quickly learned that Timmy used the dangerous behaviors to produce responses in the environment that met his needs, and within a month Timmy’s mother and caregivers were educated in providing attention after behaviors that were socially appropriate, and were often “incompatible” with his old patterns of behavior. For example, when Timmy met a favorite person he used to look up, smile, reach out and grasp then pull their hair. Now, Timmy’s mother is very skilled in prompting Timmy to give his favorite people a high five! Fortunately for Timmy, this new behavior is both acceptable in the community and comfortable and effective in helping him to greet a person using his hands. Now Timmy’s family is using behavioral techniques to move beyond inappropriate behavior, to teach him new skills like how to wear his new glasses.

Now that he has turned 3, Timmy’s team supported by IBHS has accomplished several things important to his family. After the FBA was completed, Timmy’s team learned that he had Angelman’s Syndrome. In the context of this genetic diagnosis, Timmy’s behavior makes much more sense! In children with this diagnosis, it is very common for the child to not use verbal language, and to use all sorts of difficult and dangerous behaviors that the caregiver responds to, often because of safety reasons. IBHS understood that this diagnosis makes it even more important to teach caregivers and others to prevent dangerous behaviors by providing appropriate attention, while teaching and strengthening alternatives like playing with toys. That’s why IBHS developed a unique transition document called the “Go Team Timmy” Booklet. This booklet explained in family and school friendly language, all of the important ways to prevent problem behaviors, and how to use teaching moments to make sure Timmy enjoys his time with favorite people, meets his needs, and stays safe.

After Timmy had stopped receiving services from IBHS and went to a family reunion, his mother wrote: “your book was a huge [hit], I sent it to my uncle who has three adolescent daughters with lovely long hair, and they all read it and did an amazing job … It was so helpful! Since they read it ahead of time we didn't have a single instance of hair pulling. I think it really helped them to feel comfortable around him too since they hadn't seen him in 2 years and have never really known what to say about his disabilities.” Timmy is now attending a local preschool, which has asked IBHS to teach their staff to use behavioral techniques, to ensure he continues to make progress.

(story stated by Camille Kolu, Ph.D, BCBA-D)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Navigating The Fire Swamp

I mentioned on Friday that this week there are three big conferences taking place in Colorado this week that have the potential to help shape the future of services for individuals with one or more developmental disabilities in our State and throughout the country.

The focus of these discussions is often on the individuals, but I think it is important that we also include parents in these discussions. Think of what parents have to go through: they get the news that their child has a developmental delay or disability, which will undoubtedly have a profound impact on them for the rest of their lives, and then they are instantly thrust into the complex world of services. Things don’t get any better when the child reaches school age. Navigating the school districts and their services is no walk in the park, either.

But perhaps the most difficult time for parents comes when the child transitions out of school. Suddenly, there are waitlists, fewer service options, and a lot of unanswered questions. Parents can feel as if they are falling off of a cliff, or trying to navigate the Fire Swamp in “The Princess Bride.”

So I hope that the discussions that take place at these conferences include input from parents and are focused on creating “packages” for parents that better prepare them for planning for services for the life of their child, instead of the artificial segmentation the current system has created. It should be interesting!

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Good News Friday!

Next week, Colorado will be the epicenter of three great opportunities for people who serve those with one or more developmental disabilities to learn about what’s going on in our field.

On Tuesday, October 11 and Wednesday, October 12, Alliance will be hosting the Six State Summit, where leaders in the DD field from Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming will meet and discuss legislative issues and the state of their states.

On Thursday, October 12, The Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities will be hosting its annual conference.

And on Friday, October 13, ANCOR will be hosting its annual technology conference.

All three conferences will be held at the Westin Westminster Hotel, just down the road from Imagine!. And all three conferences will feature Imagine! and our use of technology prominently.

For example, I will be speaking at a roundtable discussion at the Coleman Conference on “Leading an Organization to Adapt and Use Emerging Technology,” and my esteemed colleague Greg Wellems will be speaking on “How Organizations Can Create Partnerships to Develop Innovative Tech Solutions to Improve Services.”

Even more exciting, an individual who receives services from Imagine!, Mandy K., will be participating as a self-advocate at a Wednesday Coleman pre-conference event.

Mandy lives in the Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome in Boulder, and Imagine!’s two SmartHomes are the centerpieces of our efforts to use technology to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our services. Participants in all three conferences have scheduled tours at our SmartHomes.

We will also have an information booth on our SmartHomes at the Coleman conference. The information booth will display a PowerPoint presentation that provides a simple overview of the who, how, why and what of the SmartHomes. If you are not familiar with our SmartHomes, or even if you’d like a little refresher, take a sneak peek at the PowerPoint below.

I am proud of our efforts to incorporate technology into our services and Imagine!, and it pleases me to see that so many other organizations are recognizing the power and potential technology has to improve the lives of so many.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Slow Motion Rethink

There has been a great deal of discussion lately about “long-term care” in our field. While I accept and embrace the challenge of looking at systematic, lifelong solutions that will allow individuals with one or more disabilities to live fulfilling lives in their communities for their entire lives, I am growing to dislike the use of the phrase “long-term care.” There – I’ve said it. Now that I have said it, it probably will be around a long time.

I dislike the phrase because, like many other words associated with people we know, I think it reinforces a stereotype that many people have about the human services field – mainly, that everything and everyone in the human services field moves in slow motion.

Can't see the video? Click here.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Models, methods, treatments, medications, technologies and expectations are changing and improving by the moment. People we serve are responding more quickly and opening more opportunities, sometimes more quickly than the “long-term care” system can adjust.

This is not a recent phenomenon in our field, either. Imagine! was formed back in 1963 by a group of parents who wanted their children (who happened to have developmental disabilities) to have the same opportunities to engage in their communities as all the other children in the neighborhood. In short, this organization was founded to bring about change.

And what a change this organization, and thousands of others across the nation, brought about. Just 50 years ago, the standard practice was to hide individuals with developmental disabilities away in institutions – and as a whole, society accepted that approach.  Now, community integration is the accepted norm. Sure, we still have a ways to go before we get to full inclusion, but you must admit that the last five decades have brought about significant (and positive) change.

That is why it baffles me somewhat when I hear people in our field complain about the ever-changing nature of what we do. Change is a wonderful thing. Change is the reason we are here – to change lives by providing tools and services to those who need a little assistance in becoming contributing members of their communities.

I believe strongly that organizations which embrace change are the ones that are going to be the most successful as we move forward. I only hope that “long term care” doesn’t stand in the way.

Then again, what do I know? 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Good News Friday!

Often in this space I express my concerns about the current system of how services for individuals with one or more developmental disabilities are funded and delivered. Models of support for adults with developmental disabilities throughout Colorado are not meeting the needs of the current eligible population, and are unsustainable for the future. Nearly one-third of the adults who are known to be eligible for services within Imagine!’s service area are on multi-year wait lists. The number of individuals on these wait lists is expected to nearly double by 2020 if a more effective and sustainable system is not implemented.

Because the current service delivery and funding landscape is dominated by a deficit-model mindset and cost-containment strategies, efforts to determine the total number of individuals with developmental disabilities and to understand the true scope of their needs have been insufficient. With no end in sight to the growing wait list, a new model of service provision must be explored.

Imagine!’s Boulder County Initiative (BCI) is such a model.

Using Boulder County mill levy funds, the Boulder County Initiative will provide support to individuals on the Imagine! adult wait list for services. Utilizing local funds provides for flexibility in service design and delivery, rather than being defined by a federally dictated set of rules for participation and service delivery. Imagine!’s Boulder County Initiative will be comprised of individuals who participate in a needs assessment that: 1) identifies the support needs of the individual through use of the Supports Intensity Scale, and; 2) assesses individual/family needs, resources, and priorities. Eligibility for participation in Imagine!’s Boulder County Initiative includes: individuals who are 18 years of age or older, currently reside in Boulder County, are U.S. citizens, and who are not receiving other waiver or state funded adult services.

The BCI model will include a navigator who works with individuals and families to identify and access existing resources. Only after all other resources have been exhausted will Boulder County funds be accessed. The backbone of the BCI will be the strengths of individuals and families. BCI will focus on the needs and self-identified priorities of the individual (and family whenever possible).

I have high hopes for this program as a first step toward re-configuring our system to better meet the needs of those we serve.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Have A Coke And A Moment

I came across a quote from the CEO of Coca-Cola that got me to thinking. The quote was, “We sell moments of pleasure for cents billions of times a day.” I had my doubts about that, until I saw this commercial and realized how happy Coke drinkers could be:

Can't see the video? Click here.

Anyway, I really like that phrase “moments of pleasure” and think that is has a great relevance to the work we do at Imagine!, and in fact all of us who are in the field of serving individuals with one or more developmental disabilities.

Let me explain. Like most people, I have little “moments of pleasure” stored in my memory bank that sometimes pop up in my brain for no particular reason. For example, I remember as a child going on a fishing trip with the superintendant of my school. I can’t remember now why exactly I went fishing with the superintendant, but I remember some specifics of the trip as if it were yesterday. I remember riding in his green Volkswagen Beetle, I remember what the weather was like, and I remember that when we got to the stream to fish we went in different directions to find our spots. Most of all, I remember that I had a great time.

So why do I remember that one particular moment? I honestly have no idea. I know I went fishing many times – by myself, with my family, with my friends. But for whatever reason, this memory lingers where others have faded.

I believe that unknown aspect of why I remember some moments of pleasure versus others is related closely to providing services in our field, especially for Direct Support Professionals. We never know when we will have an interaction with one of the individuals that we serve that will trigger something in them and take a spot in their own collection of memories. It could happen at any time and any place.

That is why it is so important for all of us the field to approach our jobs with energy and an openness to being ready for the moment. I know that is easier said then done, especially in the climate we currently face, where dwindling resources and burdensome regulations make creating those special moments all the more difficult.

But not many other people can say that they work at a job where every day and every interaction is filled with the possibility of becoming someone’s memorable moment of pleasure. And those moments of pleasure are undoubtedly going to be far more significant (and possibly more beneficial in the long run) than someone drinking a Coke.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Good News Friday!

Imagine!’s Dayspring department recently released its latest community activity calendar, for the months of September through December.

Daypsring’s community calendar activities introduce young children with developmental delays and disabilities and their families to places in our community that offer great activities and opportunities for children to meet their goals through fun and play. All activities encourage motor, sensory, social-emotional, cognitive, and speech-language development.

Why are Dayspring’s community calendar activities, along with the other services they provide, so important?

Studies show that the first few years of life of a child's development are crucial in setting the foundation for lifelong learning, behavior, and health outcomes. This is good not only for the child, but also for communities and organizations facing a limited amount of resources available for serving individuals with one or more developmental disabilities. Well-designed early childhood interventions have been found to generate a return to society ranging from $1.80 to $17.07 for each dollar spent on the program.

But don’t just take my word for it. Here’s what a parent of a child who received services from Dayspring recently told us:

“Our daughter is a perfect example of how this program works. She entered with delayed speech and was extremely shy around other people and other children. Today she excels in her speech, has started preschool and plays and interacts great with other kids. I could never have imagined what a huge change we would see in her.

Both of the therapists that we worked with were exceptionally good. Janine Randol gave us a number of exercises and techniques to encourage our daughter to begin to use more words and develop her speech. Kate Hines, our OT always had fun games and activities to help our daughter break out of her shell. I can't say enough about the impact that these two women had in our life and our daughter's improvement from the time she entered the program until she aged out. In addition, our daughter regularly attended nearly all of the community activities and they were an incredible tool to encourage her social development. Sara and Pat were wonderful group leaders and really gave us support on a weekly basis as our daughter went through new stages and took on new challenges.

I truly credit Dayspring's therapists and community activities with her success and am very satisfied with our experience. Thank you!”
Congratulations to all of the Dayspring staff. You do vital work for our community, and the positive impact you have on the children you serve will last them a lifetime.

By the way – if you are looking for a way to support Dayspring’s community calendar activities, which are funded by donations from generous local organizations, then check out this Imagine! Foundation blog post about some Knights of Columbus Tootsie Roll Drives taking place in Boulder and Longmont over the next two weekends.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Good News Friday!

Imagine!’s Case Management department is participating in a student internship program that I believe benefits both the interns and Imagine!.

Each year, two students studying social work are chosen to serve an internship in our Case Management Department. Members of the Case Management department’s administrative team (who have a Master’s level degree in Social Work) are assigned to supervise the interns. The interns shadow Imagine! Case Mangers, work on a few cases, and also work with some families to help them navigate the complex and confusing system of funding services for individuals with developmental disabilities in our state.

The students benefit from getting hands-on experience working at a human service organization, and Imagine! benefits from the new perspectives and ideas the interns routinely provide.

This year’s interns are Anita Doss (who is currently working on a Bachelors degree in Social Work at Metropolitan State College of Denver) and Alyssa Santoriello (who is currently working on her Masters degree at Colorado State University).

I had the pleasure of spending Wednesday with Anita and Alyssa as we attended a couple of meetings in Denver, including a meeting hosted by the Colorado Division for Developmental Disabilities for Community Centered Board Directors, and a meeting of the Government Relations Committee of Alliance.  In both cases, the interns we able to get a sense of the many concerns currently facing the finding and delivery of services in our state.

Despite the complexity of the issues discussed at the meeting, Anita and Alyssa remained engaged and asked some very insightful questions. I am so pleased that they will be part of the Imagine! team this year, and looking forward to working with them throughout the year.

Left to right: Case Management Assistant Director Rick Haskins, Case Management Intern Alyssa Santoriello, Case Management Intern Anita Doss, Imagine! Director of Client Relations Liz Smokowski

Imagine! Case Management Advisor Marianne Nick (right) and Metropolitan State College Field Liaison Doris Goodteacher (left) are working together to create a learning plan for Case Management Intern Anita Doss (center)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Baby You Can Drive My Car (As Long As You Are Not Providing Transportation Services)

One of the many regulatory agencies that Imagine! is beholden to has rules regarding transportation of the individuals served by Imagine!. On my mind today are the rules directed toward employees of Imagine! who are using their personal vehicles to transport the people we serve, or non-employees providing transportation on behalf of Imagine! for the individuals we serve.

Sure, everyone should have a first aid kit, tools for inclement weather, and keep records of all maintenance performed on their vehicle. That’s what our grandfathers told us to do. It was not regulated by the government, nor shared with your employer or company for whom you might volunteer. The requirements go far beyond what a registered car owner would have to meet if the passenger didn’t have a developmental disability.

At first glance, that may seem like it makes sense – like it is a good protective measure. But upon further inspection, I think it is emblematic of how our service system in Colorado has become misdirected and now regulates to the exception rather than the rule.

What do I mean by that? Well, if I want to drive my registered car in Colorado there is a set of standards I must meet, such as: I need to have insurance, I need my emissions checked, my taillights need to be in working order, etc. As a member of my community, I accept that there are rules in place that I must meet in order to be allowed to use my vehicle. I accept that my car shouldn’t look like this:

Can't see the video? Click here.

So if I am at work and I need to travel to a different location I can jump in with a co-worker who is driving a typical registered vehicle and off we go. If I invite a person who is receiving services, we have to engage the regulatory checks and balances and document additional information in a separate record about the registered vehicle.

As a society, through the various laws that have been enacted over the years by various government representatives elected by the public, we have come to a general agreement on the balance of the risks and responsibilities we are willing to bear for the privilege of owning a registered vehicle.

And here is where these rules miss the point, in my opinion. Most organizations that serve individuals with one or more developmental disabilities have a goal of community inclusion for those they serve. Community inclusion isn’t a blank check, however. Being part of a community also means accepting certain risks and responsibilities.

If we truly believe in community inclusion for those we serve, we have to acknowledge that we can’t regulate away all of the risks that come with that honor.

It doesn’t make any sense to me that an employee of Imagine! can drive to work in a car that is perfectly acceptable under one set of rules (rules that apply to the majority of citizens), but that same car may not be acceptable to transport a client because of a different set of rules.

Don’t get me wrong. I know we serve a vulnerable population, and a good deal of the rules and regulations regarding our services that we abide by are perfectly reasonable. But rules like the ones I just described only end up making the task of achieving true community inclusion for those we serve that much more difficult.

By the way – my first aid kit is missing band aids. Please don’t tell my grandfather.

Then again, what do I know?