Evelyn Tileston feels fortunate she has a husband and friends who read the clothing catalogues to her so she can decide on what to order. That may seem frivolous, but not when you realize she is visually impaired.
"I was born with a condition called RP that has gradually gotten worse, and now I only see light and dark but no details," Tileston said.
Tileston, who lives in Craig, does her own housework and said about the only thing she doesn't do is drive a car. Her determination to be independent is what inspired her to co-found the Independent Living Center (ILC) in 1997.
Most Americans take their everyday lives for granted. They easily accomplish many simple tasks driving a car, opening a jar, hearing the phone ring, reading a book. Piece of cake.
But for many Americans, disabilities severely limit or even prevent their daily activities.
Some challenges in public places are obvious, such as no ramped entrances for people who use wheelchairs, no interpreters or captioning for people with hearing impairments, no brailled copies or audio tapes of printed material for people who have visual impairments.
At home, it is often frustrating for people with a disability to perform simple tasks without helpful tools, such as dressing themselves or eating.
"I'm doing my best to be independent," Craig resident Linda Cork said.
She has multiple sclerosis and is determined to stay out of a wheelchair and do as many things for herself each day as she can.
"I go to the Independent Living Center for companionship, to meet other people. There are lots of disabled people in Craig," said Cork.
Despite the difficulties, millions of people who have a disability have established lives of independence. Their daily tasks are made easier by the use of products that help them live a more independent, higher quality of life.
Tileston and Julia Beems, outreach coordinator with Colorado Assisted Living, Denver, hosted a gift giving display Nov. 17 held at the VFW. More than a hundred items were laid out, demonstrating the vast array of tools on the market to help people live more independent lives.
"There are a lot of things that can make a big difference in someone's life," Beems said. To demonstrate, she picked up the long handled dust pan. "For people with bad backs who can't bend over. Or these 'rolling scissors' for people with arthritis who can't move their hands very well."
Other items on display included a smoke detector with a strobe light, vibrating alarm clocks and watches, talking calculators, braille playing cards, clothing with velcro snaps to replace buttons, arm extenders for reaching and grabbing items from high shelves, phone modifiers, voice amplifiers, touch-sensor computer screens, special walking sticks, magnifying glasses, non-bleed pens that write very black, specially designed eating utensils and garden tools, and clocks with large numerals.
"The people we serve through our center here in Craig have all types of disabilities," Tileston said. "Some are in wheelchairs, some are blind or deaf, some have cerebral palsy and some have psychiatric conditions or congenital disorders. The important thing is that we do not distinguish one disability from another, and we are here to help all ages and all people."
Even people with mild conditions can find help through the center.
Jason Sanders, 12, of Maybell had a brain tumor removed three years ago. Extensive surgery and a stroke damaged the fine motor skills in his right hand, making writing by hand slow-going for him.
"He can still write, he just writes slower," said his mother, Sharon Sanders.
Writing requires fine motor skills, she said, which were slightly impaired in Jason, and typing doesn't require those fine motor skills. "We wanted to get him computer literate, but because the medical care has been so extensive we just could not afford to get him a computer," she said.
The Sanders family was referred to the ILC. One of the things the center does is act as a resource for people with needs. Tileston first loaned Jason an older computer and put feelers out into the community. The Elks Club responded and donated the funds to purchase a new computer for Jason.
Tileston said the Independent Living Center serves about 125 people in Craig. "There are many, many ideas for holiday gifts for people," she said. "We are a resource, and this is a demonstration today of some of the things you can see. Then there are the things you can't see. Giving someone a gift of rides around town, or a housecleaning, or reading to them are wonderful gifts."
For more gift ideas, to view catalogues or for information about the Independent Living Center, call Tileston at 826-0833.