Northwest Colorado Center for Independence: Working to build an inclusive Moffat County community | CraigDailyPress.com

Northwest Colorado Center for Independence: Working to build an inclusive Moffat County community

Ian Engle/For Craig Press

The Northwest Colorado Center for Independence assists people with disabilities to explore, identify, choose and direct community-based supports and services. Our advocacy, independent living skills development, information assistance, peer support and transition services are designed to provide tools and develop the skills needed to realize better quality of life. The options for counseling and skills developing support we provide breaks down barriers between "us and them," those who provide and those who receive.

Charity and pity are well-meaning enemies of our effort to develop mutually beneficial relationships in which we are all valued participants in accessible, inclusive and accommodating communities. Independent living services are not designed to protect us from ourselves. We believe everyone has dignity of risk and a right to fail as a natural way of learning. Respect for autonomy allows us to actively engage an empowerment model of service delivery. The majority of NWCCI staff and board members are people with disabilities. We know and experience the challenges of those with whom we work, whether accessing benefits, employment and transportation, finding social and recreational opportunities, navigating healthcare services or whatever the case may be to achieve greater independence

The independent living movement is rooted in a history of advancing civil rights for people with disabilities and the conviction that everyone has the right, regardless of age or ability, to pursue a successful life in the community of their choice. When our fellow citizens are marginalized based on age, ability or any other arbitrary demographic, it erodes the moral foundation of community.

Our approach is to engage those with whom we work in taking strategic action, both personally and civically, for positive change and the realization of healthier communities. We work with (not for) anyone with a disability, of any age, free of charge, to reach self-identified goals for living well in Moffat County. We neither foster dependency nor reinforce entitlement. Those who receive our services develop independent living plans with clear action steps to accomplish the identified goal. When the first thing someone says in a moment of awkward ignorance and well-intended sympathy is "I'm sorry," it is tough to respond to with poise that doesn't include sarcasm.

"Let me help you" can be disempowering, especially when we find ourselves immersed in a culture of dependency. Too often, the very services we receive are set up to do things for us rather than assist us in doing for ourselves. Charity becomes toxic when we are not afforded dignity, freedom, choice, autonomy or respect. Independence doesn't mean we do everything by ourselves; it means we are actively engaged, rather than relegated to passive observers of our own lives, merely existing in a world void of opportunity for personal growth.

We measure impact on an individual level as self-reported by those who claim an increase in quality of life after having used our services. We measure impact on a community level when people with all manners of ability are out and about, living and enjoying life, and disability is of no special concern, simply business as usual.

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Fortunately, we live in an amazing place where mutual support is valued above personal gain. To this end, NWCCI assists government agencies and the business community with accessibility modifications, inclusive workforce trainings and technical assistance with issues such as service animals, reasonable accommodations, assistive technology and all manner or means for inclusion.

To learn more, check out our website, http://www.nwcci.org. Feel free to contact us, or drop by our office at the Bell Tower Building (old CNCC building), 50 College Lane, in Craig. We are all made stronger by the way we complement each other in contrast.

Ian Engle is executive director of Northwest Colorado Center for Independence.