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Thornton Business News

Thornton Business Spotlight

Spotlight On: Center for People with Disabilities

2018 City of Thornton Community Spirit Award Winner

Smartphone usage class for the sight impaired.

The Center for People With Disabilities (CPWD) is a cross-disability, nonresidential, nonprofit agency that provides unique services to people with disabilities. Founded in 1977 by Judy Dixon and former Boulder County Commissioner, Homer Page, CPWD’s first focus was to help people with disabilities gain employment. Today, CPWD has five core services areas that offer a comprehensive set of programs and services to meet the current needs of people with disabilities.

CPWD Core Service Areas:

  • Independent Living and Life Skills Training
  • Information and Referral
  • Individual and Systems Advocacy
  • Peer Support and Activities
  • Transitions

The move to end discrimination against people with disabilities and cultivate support for civil rights and services started in the late 1960s in tandem with the civil rights movement. Prior to that time, people with disabilities faced many barriers including: access to physical location, healthcare, education, training and other needs. Jobs were unavailable, and access to transportation, public and private buildings and basic services were extremely limited.

The disability rights movement brought people with different disabilities together, including those with physical and mental disabilities, as well as people with visual and hearing disabilities, who, together, called for an end to discrimination and a basic set of civil rights.

Also in the 1960s, the Independent Living Movement unfolded in California, and sought to give individual rights and decisions back to people with disabilities themselves through de-medicalization and de-institutionalization of people with disabilities and cross-disabilities, and by providing resources for developing independence.

In 1968, the Architectural Barriers Act was passed, mandating that federally constructed buildings and facilities be accessible to people with physical disabilities. In 1973 the Rehabilitation Act became law, prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities in all programs or services receiving federal funds. Over the ensuing years, protests over access and rights have continued to draw attention to the discrimination of people with disabilities in the workforce and society.

It wasn’t until 1990 that the Americans with Disabilities Act became law. This comprehensive civil rights protection Act mandated that local, state, and federal governments and programs be accessible, that employers with more than 15 employees make “reasonable accommodations” for workers with disabilities and not discriminate against otherwise qualified workers with disabilities, and that public accommodations such as restaurants and stores not discriminate against people with disabilities by making “reasonable modifications” to ensure access for members of the public with disabilities. The Act also mandated access to public transportation, communication, and in other areas of public life.

Over the years, private and non-profit organizations have grown to meet the support, training, in-home and independent living needs of people with disabilities. The first independent living center was established in Berkeley, CA in 1972. Currently, independent living centers exist in all 50 states, Canada, and most of the developed countries of the world. Colorado has 10 independent living centers.

Today, CPWD helps people with disability gain access to crucial and otherwise unavailable services that support them in conquering barriers and challenges to independent living, gainful employment and fulfilling lives. Without support and independence, many people with disabilities experience isolation, depression and other physical and mental disabilities.