Fight to provide independence helps NWCCI take its place among the stars | SteamboatToday.com

Fight to provide independence helps NWCCI take its place among the stars

Ian Engle and Montezuma were honored by Governor John Hickenlooper after Engle and the Northwest Colorado Center for Independence were named Shining Star Award winners for their efforts to improve accessibility in Craig.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Holding down a job has never been a problem for Craig resident Bobby Holmberg, but getting there is a different story.

"It all started with Bobby," said Ian Engle, who is executive director of the Northwest Colorado Center for Independence. "He works at Walgreens, and he was having a hard time just getting to work without driving out in the street in his chair, which was pretty dangerous."

Holmberg, who works four hours a week, was not only having problems getting to work, but he was also struggling to get to other places around town including seeing Deb Kirby, the day program coordinator for Horizons Specialized Services in Craig.

"I like to go that way to read with Deb,"  Holmberg said. "It's a little easier now to get through the lights than it used to be."

Engle, a Steamboat Springs resident, and the Northwest Colorado Center for Independence, were recently honored with the Shining Star Award for their efforts to make it easier for Holmberg and other Craig wheelchair users to get from place to place in Craig. The award was presented to Engle and his dog, Zuma, by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

"We were able to work with the department of local affairs in Moffat County and the city of Craig and get everybody to work together to create accessible routes to work for some folks with disabilities," Engle said. 

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Engle said his organization got involved in 2011 when it began providing independent living skills and advocacy services for Holmberg.  Engle said that NWCCI quickly discovered that Holmberg needed to use the roadway along a stretch of U.S. Highway 40 in order to get to work, to meet a Horizons program director and go to the grocery store. 

In September of that year NWCCI, an organization that promotes independent living for seniors and  people living with disabilities in Routt, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Grand and Summit counties, conducted a formal presentation for Craig City Council, which not only pointed out barriers to mobility but offered solutions.

In the spring of 2016, a plan was established that identified priority areas for improvement, and that plan was completed last fall with the city investing $300,000 in the project, which impacted six blocks of town from Ledford to Ranney streets on the northside of U.S. 40. Those improvements allow safe access to the grocery store, mall and local pharmacy.

The work increased the width of the sidewalk making is safer for all users, created or improved 10 curb cuts and installed nearly a block of new sidewalk.

In November, the Colorado Department of Labor recognized Engle and NWCCI as Shining Stars Award winners. Annually, the awards honor five workers with disabilities, five employers who have taken steps to provide employment opportunities to people with disabilities and five individuals or organizations that make a positive and ongoing impact on the quality of life of people with disabilities.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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