Live independantlyPILR is the lead agency for an exciting new initiative being funded by a contract from the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. Called “IKAN,” the project is extremely important because it provides immediate access to enhanced services from Centers for Independent Living (CILs) for people in 76 Kansas counties who are 55+ years old with blindness or vision loss.

Agencies involved in the IKAN Consortium include PILR, the Resource Center for Independent Living (RCIL), Southeast Kansas Independent Living (SKIL) and Southeast Kansas Independent Living in the West.

IKAN has been developed around the independent living philosophy which encourages individuals to exercise greater personal initiative and control over their lives. IKAN participants will find programs designed to teach the skills necessary for acquiring, maintaining and increasing independence. Individual and group training is available. Additionally, five staff members from Centers in the consortium are enrolled in a distance learning program at Texas Tech University and will become Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists upon completion of their studies.

The core services of IKAN include individual and systems advocacy, peer counseling, information and referral, Independent Living (IL) skills training and deinstitutionalization.

The capacity building portion of this contract affords CILs the opportunity to be able to provide Orientation and Mobility training (O & M) in the fall of 2012. O & M helps with sensory awareness, spatial concepts, searching skills, independent movement, using another person to aid in travel (sighted guide training), protective techniques and cane skills.

In addition, five staff are studying, via distance learning, to become certified to teach Braille.

Consumer Involvement

As part of implementing the project, individuals fitting the target population of the project were invited to attend one of 25 focus groups throughout the project area to discuss several key points.  Participants were asked to share their thoughts and life experiences around the five core services mentioned earlier.

Individuals taking part in the focus groups were encouraged to discuss specifics about information and referral resources used regarding low-vision doctors, the Kansas Association for Blind and Visually Impaired, various national groups, assistive technology and talking books.

Discussion moved to issues surrounding advocacy and what IL skill trainers need to teach people who are blind or visually impaired regarding self-advocacy, including dealing with Social Security work incentives, effective meeting formats, means of transportation, physical access barriers and recreational pursuits.

Participants were then asked to talk about their experiences regarding peer counseling, connecting people who are blind or visually impaired with like peers and whether there were current groups of this kind already in existence.  The focus group leader also asked if anyone there would be willing to become a peer mentor in their community.

The topic of deinstitutionalization was then discussed and what IL skill trainers needed to teach people about community living options and individual choice. The groups also discussed the information IL skill trainers needed to teach individuals about daily living skills such as communications, finances, housekeeping and meal preparation, clothing care, grooming and health, all with the purpose of empowering people who are blind or visually impaired to live as independently as they choose.

Questions surrounding communication issues included how participants made phone calls, kept appointments, whether they received information in large print, Braille, with a tape recorder or with using a computer and using a TV, radio, VCR, CD player or tape recorder and other items.  Individuals discussed how they wrote checks, identified coins and currency, how they banked and paid their bills and the technology they used to perform these tasks.

Safety issues were addressed, including handling medications, knowing when food is done after preparation, electrical safety, handling any one of several emergency situations, etc.  The focus group leader then asked the participants what other things they thought would be important to address.

The knowledge gained from the focus groups is being compiled and will then be incorporated into new curricula that will be made available to CILs throughout Kansas.  Center staff will be able to use this tool as they work with people who are blind or visually impaired.

Throughout our history, Centers for Independent Living have promoted the full inclusion of people with disabilities into all aspects of society.  This contract gives us the opportunity to assist people who are blind or visually impaired to remain in their homes and continue to be fully participating members in their communities.

For additional information on the IKAN project, please contact either Chris Owens via e-mail at cowens@pilr.org or Elizabeth (Libby) Doxon at ldoxon@pilr.org.  You can also contact us by calling toll free 1-888-715-6818 or 620-663-3989.

iKan Informational PDF

About iKan

Braille services will also be available through the IKAN project. IKAN has both equipment and software necessary to transcribe and produce materials in Braille and large print publications.

In collaboration with Assistive Technology for Kansas Access Sites, Specialists are available to help individuals find the best assistive technologies, including white canes, handheld telescopes and GPS devices. In addition, a few links about assistive technology are found below: