Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges  [Winter 2018]
Service In the Spotlight:
TAP Program Offers Free Specialty Phones to Those Who Qualify
If using the telephone is a frustrating experience for you or someone you love, we may just have the assistance you need. Independence, Inc. is an access site for the Kansas Telecommunications Access Program (TAP) in which funding is available to assist people with various disabilities access the use of a phone with greater ease.
"The purpose of the program is to provide specialized telephones and other telecommunications devices to Kansans with disabilities who can’t use traditional home telephones. (Source: KU Assistive Technology for Kansans website)
A variety of phone styles are available to meet the needs of anyone having difficulty seeing, hearing, dialing, holding or speaking into a traditional phone. Income guidelines apply and you must have home phone service. For more information or to apply, contact Daniel Brown, Independence, Inc. Information & Referral Specialist,
Supporting Independent Living - It's What We Do!
Of the many services we provide that advocate for and support Independent Living here at Independence, Inc., perhaps one of the most visible and tangible is our Accessible Housing Program . Our Independent Living Specialists work to help problem solve home access issues by helping to assess the needs of consumers and find solutions to increased accessibility. We also help to find and secure funding, assist in the process of finding a contractor and help to oversee that the project goes as planned and ends with a quality, accessible product. So far this year, 4 projects have been approved by the City of Lawrence for construction and one has been completed: A newly installed deck and entrance ramp to a consumer's home to allow for safe and accessible entry (pictured above & below). Advocacy in Action - it's a beautiful thing!
Pictured above: a new accessible ramp and deck are built for a consumer with funds from the Independence, Inc. Accessible Housing Program
Celebrating Accessible & Universal Design
Access to quality healthcare is critical for all - regardless of age, ability, gender, size, etc. And not just access to the provider, or parking, or even to the building itself, but access to the exam rooms, the bathrooms, the exam tables and chairs, and perhaps most importantly, the equipment needed to assess an individuals health. Thanks to a collaboration between Independence, Inc., the KU Institute for Health and Disability Policies and the recently CDC Grant-funded Kansas And Disability Health Program , we have had the privilege of helping to assess how usable local health care sites are for people with disabilities through the Community Health Environment Checklist (CHEC). Whew, that's a mouthful - but what important information this is to digest!
Through the CHEC program, Bob Mikesic, Independence, Inc. Co-Executive Director, visits Health Care centers and is able to have open dialogue over what is great about the facility concerning usability/accessibility and what, if anything, could use some improvement. Issues such as accessible parking spaces, entrance to the building, bathroom accessibility - toilet height, grab bars for transferring and space for maneuvering a wheelchair - and exam room accessibility, exam table height/ability to transfer to the table and ability to access equipment, are all assessed. Waiting rooms, optical showrooms, and other spaces may be assessed as well. Recent CHEC Assessments at the Internal Medicine Group - LMH West and the Lawrence Family Vision Center have returned wonderful results and earned them a Certificate of Appreciation for improving accessible health care for people with disabilities. (see articles below)
What is Universal Design?
 "Universal design means products and buildings are accessible and usable by everyone, including people with disabilities" (source: Center for Inclusive Design and Environment Access). While Accessible Design is important - products and buildings accessible by people with disabilities - Universal Design goes one step further - spaces and products built to include people of all abilities, size, gender, age, stage of life, etc. Whereas Accessible Design can lead to separate spaces and entrances for people with mobility issues, Universal Design is inclusive - everything is built with all people in mind (i.e. an entrance with no stairs, an eye exam room where a chair user doesn't have to transfer to an exam chair, a lobby with enough room for moms with strollers, people with chairs and other mobility devices, counters and tables for all to reach, etc.) Although some of these forward-thinking and proactive design elements may not be required by ADA guidelines and may go beyond some of the basic accessibility features assessed on the CHEC form mentioned above, Universal Design is a major and important advancement in thinking and design and is certainly celebrated when we see it!
Lawrence Family Vision CLinic Scores High on "CHEC" Asessment
Clear vision goes beyond the assessment and treatment of their patients at Lawrence Family Vision Clinic .
It can also apply to the foresight they exercised in the vision of their company. According to Mily Boone, LFVC office manager, when the need for an additional exam room was identified nearly 20 years ago, they knew what they needed to do - make sure it was a fully accessible space, including the exam "lane", the area where initial testing is done before meeting with the doctor.
Accessibility could have meant providing enough space to allow someone with mobility limitations to transfer from a wheelchair for example, into the exam chair. But the "clear vision" of Dr. Dennis Hoss, O.D. and his team at the time, went a step beyond. They created an exam lane where transferring wasn't necessary. A patient who uses a wheelchair or scooter for mobility can access all exam equipment while staying in their mobility device, no transfer necessary. A fully accessible exam room was also created where more comprehensive testing occurs. In this exam room, a person using a wheelchair or scooter simply sits in front of the more traditional exam chair and the fully adjustable exam equipment moves to meet the individual where they are sitting. This is an excellent example of Universal Design. And in a world where many barriers still exist for people with disabilities accessing bathrooms, exam rooms and equipment, this is a win!
"We want to make sure we are welcoming to everybody" said Mily. "Even in the Optical (showroom), we want to make sure that area has a good layout for all people to be able to easily move around when working with an optician".
Because the ADA Standards for accessing buildings don't include detailed specifications for exam chairs, tables and equipment, we thank you Lawrence Family Vision Center for going a step beyond, for your "vision" and work to provide such accessible facilities and eye exams!
Top: Independence, Inc. Co-Executive Director Bob Mikesic and LFVC staff survey the exam lane during a CHEC assessment.
Inset : LFVC optical showroom
Above: Independence, Inc. Co-Executive Director, Bob Mikesic, tries out exam equipment at the Lawrence Family Vision Clinic
Internal Medicine Group - LMH West has History of Being Accessiblity-Minded
If you don't have a disability, you may go to your doctor for illnesses and regular checkups without ever thinking about things like how high the exam table is, how much pressure the door has when opening and closing, the height of the counters, how wide the hallways are or how you will be weighed to ensure accurate dosage of medications. Visiting your doctor may be a common occurrence with little if any obstacle.
But for millions of people with various disabilities, age-related mobility issues, or weight or height that makes standard equipment hard to access, visiting the doctor may be more challenging than routine.
The CHEC assessment through the Kansas and Disability Health Program is a fabulous tool available to Center's for Independent Living like Independence, Inc., used to open up the dialogue about accessibility and measure how usable public spaces are for people with disabilities. The Internal Medicine Group at LMH West is a great example of a healthcare facility that has worked and planned over the years to make sure they provide this type of usable space. "Sensitivity to the problem (of accessibility issues) and paying attention to that, just noticing things over time" said Dr. Gregory Schnose when asked how such an accessible practice came about. "Moving to a new building (in 2005) was the ideal opportunity to correct those things (that needed correcting). Dr. Schnose and his colleagues relied on input from patients and staff as well as ADA guidelines to make sure their new space would be accessible to all - wider halls, larger doorways and exam rooms, adjustable height exam tables and a wheelchair accessible scale were all on the wish list. "I've seen the improvements from when you were over on Harvard Road" said Bob Mikesic, Independence, Inc. Co-Executive Director, commenting on the current building. "This building is amazingly accessible for people that come to receive services" he said.
Bob Mikesic presenting CHEC certificate of appreciate to Dr. Gregory Schnose and Emily Herman
Bob Mikesic using a wheelchair accessible scale
Bob performed the CHEC assessment and had the opportunity to go over the results and to present Dr. Schnose and Ellen Herman, IMG Director, (pictured above) with a Certificate of Appreciation for high marks on building and equipment accessibility. Thank you Internal Medicine Group, for your hard work in offering a great healthcare facility accessible to and usable by people with disabilities!

Top: Independence, Inc. Co-Executive Director Bob Mikesic discusses the CHEC assessment with IMG staff and representatives from LMH and the Kansas and Disability Health Program
Top inset: Dr. Gregory Schnose of IMG and Val Renault, Kansas and Disability Health Program
Above: Bob Mikesic uses the wheelchair accessible scale at the Internal Medicine Group
Office Closings and Inclement Weather Policy
  • Independence, Inc. will be CLOSED Monday, February 19th for President's Day
  • Did you know? Our "snow day" or Inclement Weather policy follows that of the Lawrence School District. If the Lawrence Public Schools close for snow, ice or extreme temperatures, Independence, Inc. will close as well. (We've had 2 snow days so far this winter!) And if the schools have a late start or early dismissal, we will do the same. This includes our office as well as our transportation services.
To follow the latest Independence, Inc. news, advocacy, weather and holiday closings and more, visit our news and information page:
or follow us on FB or Twitter below
The Art of the Keynote
This one-of-a-kind work of art, presented to Independence, Inc. by artist and keynote speaker, Richard Hight at our Disability Mentoring Day back in October, is now hanging beautifully in our hallway!
The theme of 2017 DMD, "I am More" was depicted in graffiti style using chalk during Richard's keynote speech and artistic performance and we are the proud recipients. Come by and check it out! It adds color, interest and a very important statement to our space: There is no greater disability in society than the inability to see a person as more" - (Robert M. Hensel, disability advocate and Guinness World Record holder)
Eye on Progress: WID Conference Accessibility Initiative
54 million Americans with disabilities face barriers to full access of their communities every day. Included in those barriers are equal access to some of the most important and influential economic, civil rights and policy conferences across the nation. The World Institute on Disability's (WID) Conference Accessibility Initiative , in partnership with JP Morgan Chase, is "actively striving to make community development and policy conferences more accessible and inclusive of people with disabilities" through disability accommodations, scholarships and training. (source: WID website)
Accommodations include such things as a disability concierge desk, mobility devices, open captioning on screen and accessible transportation.
"Across America, convenings of civil rights and community development organizations help to set the economic opportunity agenda. Unless the conferences fully integrate disability access issues into their content–and people with disabilities are present–the needs and perspectives of the disability community will be largely left out of the discussion ." - WID Conference Accessibility website
The initiative, now in its 3rd year, targets top conferences that attract key decision makers from the non-profit, business and public sectors and works to ensure that these events are accessible to and
inclusive of people with disabilities - people with the ability, interest and desire to help shape public policy and drive economic development.
One of the conferences that WID is partnering with in 2018 to promote and support local leaders with disabilities is the NeighborWorks America Training Institute, May 7-11 in Kansas City, MO.
This top-notch training on Community Development and Non-Profit Management will be fully accessible thanks to the Accessibilty Initiative and scholarships will be awarded thanks to the partnership with JP Morgan Chase & Co.
Are you interested in professional training on Affordable Housing, Community Economic Development or Non-Profit Leadership? Are you a disability rights advocate? Do you think you might want to be a trailblazer for disability inclusion at this influential community development event?
If so, WID is looking for applicants to attend the NeighborWorks America conference through scholarship funding and support from a team of fellow disability advocates. Learn more about this fabulous opportunity with the links below:
Read more about the Conference Acccessibility Initiative here.
In the Community: Upcoming KanCare Information Session
Open to the public! The Arc of Douglas County is hosting a public information session. Come hear the latest developments and up to date information on KanCare - potential concerns, proposed changes, advocacy opportunities and what this all means for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities. Monday, February 12th, 6:30 p.m. at the United Way Center, 2518 Ridge Court, Lawrence, KS. Bring your questions and your friends to this important event!
Upcoming Board Meeting - Public Comment Welcome
Do you want your voice to be heard? Interested in a firsthand look at our organization? Our Board Meetings are open and public comment is welcome!
When: 2nd Monday of every month at 5:00 pm (next meeting is February 12th)
Where: Independence, Inc. Conference Room
Did you miss our end-of-year fundraiser? Interested in giving now or receiving future fundraising letters? We would love to have you partner with us through a financial contribution to help support our mission to maximize the independence of people with disabilities.Donate today - your gift matters!
Independence, Inc.