Thursday, December 11, 2014

Imagine!'s Leadership Development Program Update for December

 Pictured from left to right are: Mason Turnage, who works for Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source department; Sarah Baglee, who works for Imagine!’s Early Intervention department; Emily Pitt, who works for Imagine!’s Innovations department; Elena Ciaravino, who works for Imagine!’s Out & About department; Cassie Rogers, who works for Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source department; and Meagan Rountree, who works for Imagine!’s Case Management department.

One of the highlights of this Leadership Development Group experience has been attending the 14th annual Coleman Institute Conference on Cognitive Disability and Technology. Held at the Omni Hotel in Broomfield, CO, the Coleman Institute Conference is a yearly event focusing on all things tech for people experiencing a cognitively disabled. It is a world-renowned event with a diverse attendance, but all are there for one goal: to bring a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives together for the purpose of collaborating on new ideas to perpetuate the ability of our community to access new technology and information. The LDG was invited along with staff members from Imagine!’s technology department, executive team, and various other departments.  It was an honor for us to be a part of such a progressive group, and to see first hand what is being done in our community and around the country for people with cognitive disabilities and those who provide care.  

With a full day of seminars and breakout sessions, we headed into the conference room anticipating lots of great information, and planning to return to our respective departments with new knowledge and tools to further develop the technology we use for our clients. We expected to enhance our ability to understand the importance of new technology and what those resources mean for our future. The itinerary did not disappoint. 

The first major presentation at the conference focused on The Declaration of the Rights of People with Cognitive Disabilities to Technology and Information Access. Please take a moment to view the declaration and watch an informational video about the document and its history: It was powerful to listen to the presenters outline the document and how it is being used to enhance the lives of those with cognitive disabilities. This is an incredible collaborative movement toward improving the way people with cognitive disabilities access technology and information, thereby increasing independence and providing equal quality of life for all. 

Another great presentation focused on self-advocacy and how its definition is changing with the use of new technology and platforms. “Selfie Advocacy” showcased new tools for education, health and care for people with intellectual and cognitive disabilities. One of the latest and coolest tools being developed now is the Wiki, a personalized, easy-build website designed for people with varied abilities to show who they are and what they’re all about in a way that previously wasn’t possible. To learn more and to see some other projects, please visit

Of the many breakout sessions available, a favorite was “Collective Empowerment: The Family Triad.” This session had a panel discussing the understanding of the perspectives of people with disabilities, and also the perspectives of their parents and siblings. As a sibling of a person with a disability, this presentation was of particular interest. We all benefitted from hearing the voice of Cathy, a self-advocate and the vice-president of Self Advocates Becoming Empowered. She brought up interesting points about self-advocacy and how it relates to the way families advocate for their children with disabilities. We also heard from Danielle Frost, a representative of Colorado Parent to Parent, and from Shea Tanis, the Associate Director of the Coleman Institute, who is a sibling advocate. The unique viewpoints from all three presenters made for a well-rounded view of what it means to advocate for people with disabilities, and how they advocate for themselves in new and innovative ways.

We really appreciated the opportunity to take part in such a fantastic day of learning and new ideas. Technology available to us these days is abundant, and making sure that we all have equal access to it is increasingly important as we progress as humanity.

And it rained, which, as a Seattle native, made it even that much more fun.

If you haven’t already, please request to join the Leadership Development Group on Facebook. You will need to click on the “Request to Join” button, and once your request is approved, you will be able to view the comments and be part of the discussion.

Thank you to Mason Turnage for sharing this great update!

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