by Mary Jo Tesitor
part 4 of 5
In part 3 of this series the author reviewed the history of legislation in the U. S. between 1946 and 1970 which mandated more humane treatment of those with physical or mental disabilities and the very gradual change in public acceptance that followed.
HUERFANO — The 1960s were a time of relative progress in the area of rights for those with physical or mental disabilities.
In 1963, The Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act of 1963 passed. The act set aside money for developing State Developmental Disabilities Councils, Protection and Advocacy Systems, and University Centers. (In 1984, it was renamed the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act.) Although the Civil Rights act of 1964 bypassed those with disabilities, it created an atmosphere of radical awareness of rights for all.
In 1965, Title XIX (19) of the Social Security Act created a cooperative federal/state entitlement program known as Medicaid that would pay medical costs for certain individuals with disabilities and families with low incomes. In 1968, The Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 mandated the removal of what was perceived to be the most significant obstacle to employment for people with disabilities – the physical design of the buildings and facilities on the job. The act required that all buildings designed, constructed, altered, or leased with federal funds be made accessible.
Furthermore, The Education for Handicapped Children Act of 1975 – now called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was signed into law. It guaranteed a free, appropriate, public education for all children with disabilities in the least restrictive environment.
The first formal agency to provide services to developmentally disabled individuals in southern Colorado was the Las Animas County Center for the Handicapped, founded in Trinidad by Rae Bulson in 1969. In the mid to late 1970s, Bulson helped to establish a center for people with disabilities in Walsenburg, a single room in the Huerfano Community Center under the direction of Kathleen Andreoli and governed by the newly formed Community Centered Board for Huerfano County. The Las Animas County Rehabilitation Center provided services to adults in the Walsenburg area under a contract with the Community Centered Board which provided services to children.
By 1978, the center was moved to space in the rear of the Black and White Grocery on Main Street, owned by John Pazar. At that site, the clients met to go on outings to Elitch Gardens or zoos and to learn self-help skills. The job of the employees was to be companions to the disabled and get them out of their homes and into the community.
In the early 80’s, when the space at the Black and White was no longer available, the “Sheltered Workshop” moved to the building to the southwest of the community center which now houses the Huerfano County Road and Bridge department. This was the golden age of the Sheltered Workshop in Huerfano County. As many as 20 client workers came in each week to sew cushions for furniture, create Christmas cards, strip furniture and create and box fishhooks, among other activities. Eagle Claw fishing gear was one of the major contracts. Residents of the nursing home also came in to participate in the many activities.