Leadership on the Move. Sometimes it is the small things which make a big difference for people with disabilities.


This is a re-post from our former Tango Community site.  The story is about innovation and leadership and demonstrates the progress people can make given the right resources and supports.  Everyone mentioned in this blog post has moved into new leadership opportunities and will have a powerful impact on supports for people with disabilities in Colorado.

Jose Torres has just been appointed by Governor Hickenlooper to the Office of Community LivingJosh Winkler has become an intregal moving and shaking as Colorado examines Medicaid waiver programs.  Mikelle Learned was nominated by Denver’s Mayor Hancock and approved by Denver City Council as a Commissioner on the Denver Commission for People with Disabilities.

Sometimes the simplest of things can cause the biggest problems.  Imagine yourself  four wheeling it, casually cruising along the sidewalks of Denver.  Okay, maybe if you count the tiny back wheels, it would be six wheeling it and your steering mechanism fails you. You  crash.  Look down and there is your front wheel laying on the ground a few feet from where you crash landed.  Now, what?

Well, for Mikelle’s boyfriend, Jose Torres, that happened.  It was late afternoon on a Tuesday.   The thermometer stuck right around 98 degrees, only a few puffy clouds floated by.  Jose’s crash occurred when the simplest of things failed on his high speed power chair.

The black knob came off in his sometimes over-toned hand, flying through the summer air landing near the flower beds on the corner of 12th and Logan.  With a sudden jerk, the chair flew out of control and hit a cement step leading to someone’s home. He hit with a bang, and then a clang.  Looking down to assess the situation, he found the once sturdy front wheel lay wounded, helpless near the heavily trafficked street, the weld on the frame completely broken through.

My phone rang. I was in the middle of Council meeting for the Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council, just blocks away.

“Hi, Katherine. It is Jose.” He said.

“Are you busy?” He asked.

I walked quietly out of the meeting answering his question, “Kind of.”  “What do you need?” I asked.

He said, “ I have a little problem with my chair.”

Little problem was an understatement, I thought. I wondered just what happens to people who use wheelchairs, when they break and no one is around.  Fortunately, cell phones help out a great deal.

But, what Jose needed was a van.  Public transportation just wouldn’t do the job right now. I left the meeting in search of Jose.  When I passed by the corner, I didn’t see him. So, I went around the block and there he sat managing to limp over to a small patch of shade. Sweat dripped off his forehead,  his face long with frustration.

I picked up the errant wheel, looked at the broken weld and walked over to him.

“Not such a great day, Jose.”  I said,

He looked at me, shook his head and managed a valiant smile.  “No, not really.”

A simple knob, probably a 50 cent part, failed. And luckily, Jose was not hurt.

I have never understood why they can’t make the control knobs that nearly every wheelchair has—stay on.

Jose did his research and talked with his friend, Josh Winkler at Cripple Concepts.  Josh runs a machine shop from his home.  He knows the problem, he been using a wheelchair for years.  Frustrated with same challenge, Josh took to his medal lathe and designed and crafted a simple solution to an old problem. His version of a wheelchair knob, is from sleek aluminum. A small screw inserted at the base of the knob can be tightened enough to securely attach to the stainless steel peg on the control box.

I was so impressed with Jose’s new solution, I asked him to set up an appointment for Mikelle.  Graciously, Josh fashioned a similar sleek new knob for Mikelle’s chair.   It is the best one she has ever had.

Once again, this is an example of community in action. People helping people. Going beyond limitations and looking for possibilities.  The Shining Beautiful Community does the Tango.. Takes Action N’GOs. How about you?.

Consider supporting Josh’s business, Cripple Concepts. www.crippleconcepts.com  He is talented, funny and quite efficient.  And, he seemed to figure out what some wheelchair designers and manufacturers have not been able to…simple things make a big difference.

Jose Torres is the owner of Colorado Computer Solutions. I go to him for all of our computer needs.  You can reach him at coloradocomputersolutions@comcast.net.