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Beacon Senior News

Gaining independence with a disability

Aug 01, 2022 03:42PM ● By Diana Barnett
“Blind! You think it’s the worst thing in the world. You think that you’re not going to be able to do anything at all ever again. So, you crawl into a hole…” 


When Helen Campbell couldn’t work anymore and had to stop driving, she thought it was the end of the world. 

“I thought that I was going to sit at home in a corner forever,” said Campbell. 

Then a man named Ray Howard talked to her about learning braille, along with other things she could do without help from anyone else.

Campbell and four other newly blind women decided this life of isolation wasn’t for them. In 1982, they started the Helen Campbell Center for the Blind, a small resource center for sight-impaired individuals. It eventually became the Western Slope Association of the Blind & Disabled to serve persons with other disabilities.

Nationally, the independent living movement sparked by a group of disabled activists passed legislation that mandated rights for those with disabilities, including funding to establish independent living centers. In 1986, the local center changed its name to Center for Independence (CFI), and in 2006, settled into its current location at 740 Gunnison Ave. in Grand Junction.

Louis Braden in front of the original Center for Independence at 835 Colorado Ave., circa 1988.


Connection and community

Some individuals are born with a disability, but many are related to an illness, accident or traumatic event. Currently, in the U.S., 26 percent of adults have a disability. That number rises to 40 percent after age 64. 

For 40 years, CFI has empowered seniors and individuals with disabilities to live independently by connecting them with support groups, job training, assistive technology, housing and other resources. Satellite offices in Montrose, Glenwood Springs and Salida serve 12 counties in Western Colorado. 

“People with disabilities are resilient because they have to be,” said Executive Director Linda Taylor. “They are problem solvers because the world is not designed for them.” 

Mary Moore is one such problem solver. In spite of being born with cerebral palsy, which affects her mobility, she attended colleges in California and Boston and earned degrees in Cinema Television and Library Science.

When she heard about CFI, she visited and eventually relocated to Grand Junction so she could begin receiving services. Nearly 24 years ago, she joined CFI’s staff as an independent living advocate, supporting clients in need of appropriate housing and working with the youth transition program alongside her service dog, Tarka.

Funding for CFI programs comes from federal and state governments as well as grants and private donations.

“It is federally mandated that 51 percent of the staff and the board of directors be people with significant disabilities,” said Taylor. “Because we are the people we serve, we’re the subject matter experts on living with a disability.”

Before joining CFI’s board of directors, Linda Jolley sought services when she moved to Colorado from Oregon 37 years ago.

“Oregon wouldn’t let me teach because I was in a wheelchair,” said Jolley, who also has cerebral palsy. “[CFI] assisted me with getting a standing wheelchair so I could use a blackboard and pursue a teaching position.” 

Jolley praised the supportive environment at CFI and celebrated its growth, which she attributes greatly to Taylor’s leadership.

“When COVID hit, Linda kept our offices open by creating a walk-up window for direct service and more accommodating web access,” said Jolley. 


Volunteer and peer mentor Katherine Seaton demonstrates how to use a Perkins Brailler to patrons at a local farmers market.
 

Noticeable impact

Among CFI’s many services, the nonprofit helps connect deaf and hard of hearing individuals with interpreter services. Staff also help seniors with low vision and blindness live independently by connecting them with support groups and individual training, and demonstrating low-vision equipment.

Regardless of disability, CFI has positively impacted the lives of thousands of individuals, helping them to become self-sufficient. Last year, 15 case managers completed 1,017 plans that helped disabled individuals live more independent lives.

“This accomplishment leads to many positives for the community, including less trips to the ER, a reduction of crime as individuals become self-sufficient, and reducing poverty—even homelessness,” said Communications & Marketing Director Katherine Lopez. “Individuals with disabilities become contributors to their community. They become valuable workers, good neighbors and often peer mentors.” 

Anyone with a disability can contact CFI to determine eligibility for services. For more information, visit www.cfigj.org or stop by the office nearest you. 

CFI Locations

Grand Junction

740 Gunnison Ave.

970-241-0315

Montrose

245 Cascade, Suite B

970-765-2016


Celebrate 40 Years At CFI’S ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION!

Dinner, Dancing & Silent Auction

August 5 5:30 p.m

Colorado Mesa University Ballroom

Buy tickets here or call 970-241-0315