Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Technology Tuesday

This week's Tech Tuesday finds us at Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source (CLS) Longmont site, where two groups of CLS Assistive Technology Instructors recently met with representatives of Imagine!’s IT department to build and develop curricula for CLS classes. This collaborative effort is dedicated to developing tools for CLS Cause and Effect classes, Communication classes, as well as improving task prompting techniques.

The team also discussed ways to better utilize technology to improve employment opportunities employment for the people we serve. Stay tuned for more to come from this dynamic team!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Good News Friday!

It is election season, so today I’d like to encourage you to vote Imagine! for “Shock Art!

In 2011, Longmont’s Art in Public Places initiated Shock Art, a community public art project in which five creative designs were selected by community members to be transformed onto switchgear boxes throughout the City. Every year since this time, AIPP has commissioned five artists to paint the switchgear boxes.

An Imagine! CORE/Labor Source (CLS) “Art at Work” class in Longmont recently applied to paint one of the Shock Art murals. As a part of their application, they created a mock-up of their design on a small box. Check it out below.

All of the submissions are on display until June 8 at the Longmont Museum. The city commissions the artists based off of votes that they receive at the museum, so I’d like to encourage you all to head out to 400 Quail Road in Longmont sometime during the next two weeks and vote for the CLS class's design: Box #4. 

If they are among the submissions with the most votes, the group will be commissioned to paint an electrical transformer box somewhere in Longmont. That would be a very public way to demonstrate the contributions individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities bring to their communities every day.

So get out there and shock the vote!

Thursday, May 26, 2016


A few weeks ago, I was in a discussion with a colleague about language. Specifically, we were discussing how frequently the language we use in the field of services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) falls short. How certain words just don’t quite fit.

We talked about some of the common language pitfalls in our field – client versus consumer, for example. I brought up one language challenge I have been contemplating lately – how often people with I/DD are described as being “vulnerable.”

Full disclosure – I have used the phrase “our most vulnerable citizens” when describing individuals who accept services from Imagine!. But language is an evolving thing, and I’d like to evolve with it. The more I think about the use of the word “vulnerable” when describing individuals with I/DD, the more I realize the meaning and general understanding of the term is acting as a barrier to a more open and inclusive society.

Imagine!’s new mission statement is “Creating a world of opportunity for all abilities.” The mission deliberately uses positive language, emphasizing what people with I/DD can do, not what they can’t do.

Using a word like “vulnerable” doesn’t emphasize possibilities. It doesn’t highlight strengths. It promotes what people are not. It doesn’t do anything to move us forward in the effort to create a world of opportunity.

Our very system of funding and delivering services is built on the use of terms such as vulnerable, and it has led to a system where we ration services based on what people are not capable of doing.

When a jobseeker creates a resume, he or she highlights strengths. Resumes don’t focus on limitations or liabilities (at least, no successful resume does). This isn’t because the person creating the resume is being dishonest. It is because we all want to put our best face forward. We all want to show what we have done in the past and what we are capable of doing in the future if given the opportunity.

Does basing I/DD services on an individual’s vulnerabilities instead of their strengths lead to desired outcomes? If not, should we look at a system where a person’s strengths and skills are the primary factors in determining how and why services are delivered? These are tough questions, but there is no better time than now to answer them.

Then again, what do I know?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Technology Tuesday

Today I’d like to offer my sincere gratitude to the Safeway Foundation for its donation of $2,500 to Imagine!. The funds will be used to build upon Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source department’s use of iPads to support the employment goals of people who accept services from Imagine!.

How can iPads support employment? Check out the story below, about Kendra, who accepts services from Imagine!, to see one example.

A couple of years back, Kendra served an internship at Boulder Community Hospital. Like many of us, Kendra sometimes struggled to stay focused on her responsibilities. 

To overcome that challenge, Kendra was equipped with a smart tablet containing software providing task prompting for her job duties. When Kendra lost focus or was unsure of her next steps, the task prompter was right there to offer simple, step-by-step guidance through complex job activities. 

Using the task prompting system opened a new world of possibilities for Kendra. In years past, she would have required the constant attention of a job coach or a Direct Support Professional in order to maintain any kind of employment. The time and resources needed to support individuals with needs similar to Kendra’s would have likely been a barrier to her ever getting and keeping a job. Instead, through the use of a task prompter, she was able to become more independent and more capable of fulfilling her job responsibilities with a decreasing amount of supervision. 

Kendra's task prompter

Thank you, Safeway Foundation, for supporting your community and for helping to create more opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities to find meaningful employment.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Out & About With . . . PricewaterhouseCoopers

On May 6, a group of eight volunteers from PricewaterhouseCoopers participated in a volunteer project to support Imagine!’s Out & About program.

The group pulled weeds and prepared the community garden plots that will be used for Out & About’s “Plants and Plots” group. The Plants and Plots group will meet each Thursday this summer to grow and harvest their own vegetables and learn the ins and outs of working in a community garden. Megan Mckean, Out & About Therapeutic Specialist, said the group was, “fast-paced, motivated, and fun to work with.”

Thank you, PricewaterhouseCoopers, for your support of your community and all of its citizens.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Good News Friday!

Imagine!’s Out & About team is gearing up for another Summer Camp for school aged kids with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Out & About's Summer Camp offers ten weeks of full days, from 8:00 until 5:00 Monday through Friday, and is available to children ages 7 - 21.

Activities include fishing, equine assisted opportunities, art exploration, swimming, movement, sports and games, gardening, as well as lots of scheduled field trips to local venues such as Water World, Elitch Gardens and the Wildlife Experience. The goal is to provide a sense of acceptance and self among peers, to enhance participant’s quality of life through the development of socialization skills and coordination skills, and to promote community integration.

A vital step in the preparation process is to create t-shirts for staff members, and each year the Out & About groups use different color shirts to create a sense of excitement and camaraderie for the team. This year, the crew went tie-dye! It looks like the team is pumped up and really looking forward to another successful summer.

This short video demonstrates why the O & A team is so eager for Summer Camp to begin.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Elementary School Car Wash To Support Imagine!

With all the rain and snow we’ve had in Colorado recently, you probably haven’t had a chance to get your car clean and ready for the summer. Well, tomorrow is your lucky day! Teachers, administrators, and students at Louisville Elementary School are hosting a Car Wash on Thursday, May 19th. Kindergarten to 5th grade students will be outside of the school from 8:15 a.m.-2:15 p.m. working hard to clean those cars! The school is suggesting a $5 donation per vehicle, and here’s the best part: a portion of the proceeds from the Car Wash will go to Imagine! to help support our mission of creating a world of opportunity for all abilities.

Please consider heading over to 400 Hutchinson Street in Louisville tomorrow to show your appreciation for some great kids who are working to make their community a better and more inclusive place.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Technology Tuesday

Sometimes it is the simple things that make all the difference. Here’s a picture of Charles Family SmartHome resident Anthony spending an afternoon catching up with family and news via social media while also engaging in range of motion exercises.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Good News Friday!

Every other year, the Imagine! Foundation’s major donors are invited to a celebration of all that their support has made possible. In late April, I was honored to attend the most recent celebration thanking our generous donor community. The event was a huge success. More than 100 guests were able to experience some hands-on technologies that have been developed to support individuals served by Imagine!. These technologies make it possible for people to live with greater independence, or just to have more fun every day (check out the short videos below to learn more about the technologies).

Can’t see the video? Click here

  Can’t see the video? Click here

  Can’t see the video? Click here

The evening also featured a presentation by Imagine!’s PR Director, Fred Hobbs, who showed guests the impact of their giving on all the services Imagine! provides. That impact is substantial. Our donors’ generosity touches the lives of thousands of people who live in Boulder and Broomfield Counties. Since the Imagine! Foundation started in 2000, donors have contributed more than $7 million, helping Imagine! create a world of opportunity for all abilities. I cannot thank you enough!

Below are a few pictures from the event.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Graph Infection

Click on the image for a larger view.

I have shared earlier versions of the graph above on this blog before.

The graph compares rates paid to providers of services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in Colorado with the Consumer Price Index in Denver, Boulder, and Greeley from FY 1997-98 through 2016-17 (along with projections up to 2020). I think you will notice a disturbing trend.

That separation between what providers are paid and what it actually costs to do business is spreading like an infection, and it has very real consequences for individuals receiving (or not receiving) support services in our state. The chart shows that over the past 20 years, providers have lost 29.4% of their buying power. Statewide, resources for people with I/DD are becoming more and more misaligned with what people need and what they have every right to expect. The quality of services and the availability of services are both at significant risk.

Providers are continually forced to squeeze water from a stone, and that stone is running completely dry. Yet, we rarely hear about this issue in the conversations of Colorado’s I/DD community. The silence is deafening.

I have frequently argued that a model where individuals and families have more direct control of the resources associated with their services, and allows for providers to establish market pricing, is a better model than our state’s current system of funding and rationing services. Individuals and families have already demonstrated the model can work. I further believe that if that model were in place, we’d hear a lot more family voices about the continual state cuts to service rates. Maybe then, the I/DD community wouldn’t be carrying the weight of Colorado’s budget woes on its shoulders.

Then again, what do I know?

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Technology Tuesday

A couple of weeks ago, the Imagine! Foundation hosted an event to recognize some of its generous donors. Highlighting the evening were hands-on demonstrations of a variety of ways Imagine! is using technology to improve the lives of the individuals we serve. The demonstrations were accompanied by short videos with brief explanations of the technology. Here’s one of the videos, showing how we use “Pirate’s Cove,” a computer-based pirate-themed hangman game created by Imagine! staff members to increase literacy skills among the people we serve.

Can’t see the video? Click here

Friday, May 6, 2016

Good News Friday

A couple of weeks ago I let you know about Out & About’s Centre Stage for Kids April 29 performance of “The Princess Who Never Laughed.

The actors hit it out of the park last Friday night! If you missed it, below are just a few pictures from the performance, as well as a video of the entire performance.

My congratulations to all of the performers, my thanks to all of the families who supported them, and my great appreciation to the Out & About staff members who worked so hard to pull this together.

Can’t see the video? Click here. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Technology Tuesday

Last Wednesday evening, the Imagine! Foundation hosted an event to recognize some of its generous donors. Highlighting the evening were hands-on demonstrations of a variety of ways Imagine! is using technology to improve the lives of the individuals we serve. The demonstrations were accompanied by short videos with brief explanations of the technology. Here’s one of the videos, showing how we use AbleLink’s Visual Impact Software.

Can’t see the video? Click here