Community Connections: NWCCI champions interdependent communities
The NorthWest Colorado Center for Independence, or NWCCI, 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 inclusive manner of 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, wherein 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, including accessing benefits, employment and transportation; finding social and recreational opportunities; navigating healthcare services; and whatever else 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 Northwest Colorado communities.
We do not foster dependency, nor do we reinforce entitlement. Those who receive our services develop independent living plans with clear action steps of when and how we are going to work with whom 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 with poise that doesn’t include sarcasm. “Let me help you” can be dis-empowering, 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 devoid 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 kinds of diverse disabilities are out and about, living and enjoying life and it is of no special concern, simply business as usual.
Fortunately, we live in an amazing place in which 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, visit our website at http://www.nwcci.org, and feel free to contact us or drop by our office at 1306 Lincoln Ave. (northwest corner of 13th Street and Lincoln Avenue) and meet our team.
We are all made stronger by the way we complement each other in contrast.
Ian Engle is executive director of the NorthWest Colorado Center for Independence.
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