State Level Activities
State Leadership Activities
Program Goal Areas
Discovering Hidden Resources:
Georgia Perimeter College
Hargreaves urges those involved with reuse programs to participate in a local workforce investment board (LWIB), including becoming a member of the board—either as a person with a disability or as a representative of a disability organization. Hargreaves also encouraged reuse programs to have their training programs certified by their local board so their reuse programs can receive funds for the training they do. Each local workforce investment board certifies and sets standards for workforce training providers. Reuse programs need to be mindful of the criteria that their local workforce investment board uses to certify providers. This will ensure that their reuse training programs meet the standards and receive individual training account (ITA) funding.
Wisconsin Prison Project Benefits State and Inmates
Although keeping electronic equipment out of the state’s landfills was the reason for the creation of the Wisconsin Computer Recycling Project in 1995, the benefits to the state have far exceeded this initial goal. Through the project’s efforts, Wisconsin’s youth and female inmates have learned to evaluate and repair computers, and many children at educational institutions have received the refurbished computers, according to Steve Kronzer, Director of the Bureau of Correctional Enterprises. Additionally, more than 200,000 pounds of electronic equipment have been recycled and saved from landfills.
Computers for the Wisconsin project primarily are donated by state agencies. For agencies donating less than 10 pieces of computer equipment, the agency must deposit the computers at 1 of 21 drop-off centers located throughout the state. For agencies donating more than 10 computers, the prison picks up the donations. The project has two program sites for recycling: one at a facility for female offenders, the other at a facility for youthful offenders. The youth conduct an initial assessment of the donated computers. Those that cannot be refurbished are "demanufactured." Demanufacturing is the process of breaking down the computers into metal, plastics, and other component parts. The prison finds markets for many of these raw materials. Female inmates refurbish and ready the computers either to be donated to educational institutions or to be sold to nonprofit organizations in Wisconsin.
The Computer Recycling Project has provided many benefits. The inmates receive A+ training that can lead to certification and good job prospects once the inmates leave prison. Schools and individuals with disabilities receive the refurbished technology for free or at reduced prices. The inmates also benefit by the satisfaction that they receive through performing an important community service.
The project, located within the state's Department of Corrections, has received funding from several sources, including the Department of Human Resources and WisTech, the state assistive technology project. A goal for the project is to seek permanent funding. The governor has been very supportive, providing $410,000 early in the project's life and more recently by providing $500,000 to sponsor a welfare-to-work program that supplies a free computer to those who complete the training course.
Kronzer gave several tips to participants who want to start a reuse program:
Photo Caption: After keyboards are cleaned and repaired (if necessary), the equipment is stacked and available for redistribution. Keyboards can be distributed separately, if needed, or can be matched with refurbished computers and monitors. Photo shows five bookshelves stakced with used keyboards.
Alabama School System Provides Top-Notch Computer Repair Program
The computer repair training program at Scottsboro High School in Scottsboro, Alabama, offers students an integrated learning experience by combining basic electronics courses with computer repair training classes. The program is aimed at high school students who are in career and technical programs. Funding for the program comes from the Alabama STAR System, the state AT Project, and other sources.
During their coursework, computer repair students refurbish donated computers, which then are given to individuals with disabilities. Last year 12 computers were upgraded and given away. Students interested in computer repair also can take additional training to earn A+ certification, said Patricia Austin, Director of Special Education Services for the school system.
In operating its training program for students, the school must employ several steps, from receiving donated computers to redistributing the newly refurbished machines. Initially, the school had to create a network for receiving donated computers and other technology. The program’s computer donors have been able to qualify for tax deductions. The training program also has collaborated with the National Cristina Foundation (NCF), so it uses NCF's model for refurbishment and reutilization of used equipment. Students are trained using an industry approved curriculum for computer repair, which leads some students to receive A+ certification, the industry standard for national certification. Once the equipment is repaired and upgraded, it is placed into local schools for individual and classroom use or it is loaned to individuals and used for homework assignments.
"Our goal is to maintain the project and grow," said Austin. The school district currently is looking into adding another class to the basic electronics course. This class would concentrate on basic switch repair, which would help students refurbish assistive technology devices that use switches.
Scottsboro High School’s computer repair curriculum provides students with many, varied opportunities in electronics and computer repair. The course syllabus that follows provides a detailed look at the 18-week program.
A Model for AT Reuse Programs: The ReBoot Project
Since the creation in 1998 of ReBoot—Georgia’s highly successful AT reuse program— more than 1,700 high end computer systems have been recycled and placed with Georgians with disabilities. ReBoot was created out of a merger of Friends of Disabled Adults and Children (FODAC), Tools for Life (a project of the Georgia Division of Rehabilitation Service), and Touch the Future, a nonprofit initiated to enhance AT Act initiatives in Georgia. Before the merger, both Tools for Life and FODAC had operated separate computer reuse programs.
When striving for success, it does not matter if a reuse program is "big" or "small," said Carolyn Phillips, ReBoot Coordinator. What matters is if the program is effective in attaining its goals. This effectiveness can be achieved by focusing on the "keys" to success that can "make or break" a program, said Phillips, who provided these keys to success:
Photo Caption: Photo of Carolyn Phillips, ReBoot Coordinator, standing in front of a book shelf with used monitors. Carolyn is wearing a lab coat over her dress. She describes how computers initially are assessed after they are received at the center. At this stage, the decision is made either to refurbish a computer or to "demanufacture" it and retain essential computer parts for the refurbishing of other computers.
Photo Caption: Photo of Tony Whitehead, VI TRAID; Sonke Dornblut, NH Refurbished Equipment Marketplace; and Joanne Willis, FODAC, listen to Bill Reace describe the finer points of refurbishing computers. Last year, ReBoot refurbished more than 1,700 computers.
Global Outlet for Reused Assistive Technology
Mark Richard, Operational Manager for Hope Haven's International Ministries, is a man on the move. During this past year Richard has traveled to Vietnam three times and to Central America twice in his efforts to deliver refurbished wheelchairs to people with mobility impairments. His work is part of the organization's worldwide mission to refurbish and distribute wheelchairs and other AT to people with disabilities. In the 7 years that Hope Haven has been collecting and shipping wheelchairs, it has distributed more than 14,000 wheelchairs in 71 countries.
Donations of used equipment are gathered from a number of sites across the country and funneled to one of four refurbishing sites where they are repaired and readied for distribution. Labor for the refurbishing is supplied by retired individuals, church service groups, youth groups, and prisoners in South Dakota. Each day, approximately 50 to 75 volunteers clean chairs, add new parts, and get the chairs ready for shipping. Cushions are made by volunteers on industrial sewing machines, with donated materials. Some volunteers specialize in one particular type of repair work, such as on tires and wheels, or on foot rests.
Transportation of wheelchairs for distribution in foreign countries also is provided through donated services. Hope Haven has limited the types of chairs that are sent to each local area. For example, only Invacare chairs or Quickie chairs may be shipped to an area. This is done to help aid later repairs and enable spare parts to be stocked. Hope Haven also provides expertise on how to use the chair and how to repair it.
Severely disabled individuals are the target group for wheelchair donations. While other international wheelchair projects stress local production of locally designed and built wheelchairs that can navigate rutted, unpaved roads and can be repaired using locally produced parts, Hope Haven sees a need for providing American-made chairs that aid the severely disabled population in a developing country. "These people have a goal to get out of bed, not down the road," Richard pointed out. The wheelchairs primarily are used indoors in the home or in an institution.
For more information about Hope Haven's International Ministries, go to the Web site http://www.hopehaven.org.
Photo Caption: Photo of Mark Richard, Hope Haven International Ministries
Photo Caption: Photo of Steve Kronzer, Wisconsin Bureau of Correctional Enterprises
Photo Caption: Photo of conference participants (from left) Tony Whitehead, Virgin Islands TRAID; Sonia Torres, Puerto Rico Assistive Technology Project; and Yegin Habtes, Virgin Islands TRAID, share a moment at the reception hosted by ReBoot/FODAC at the end of the tour.
Sources of Federal Grant Funding
Federal grant programs can provide funding opportunities for equipment reuse programs, as reported by Nancy Meidenbauer, Project Coordinator on the RESNA Technical Assistance Project. Some of these grants are available through the Department of Commerce and the Department of Education.
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
Technology Opportunities Program (formerly TIIAP)
Purpose: To promote the widespread availability and use of advanced telecommunications technologies in the public and non-public sectors. Grants are given for model projects demonstrating innovative uses of network technology.
For more information: http://www.ntia.gov/otiahome.html and http://www.ntia.doc.gov.
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
General Grant Information
Community Technology Centers
Purpose: To promote the development of model programs that demonstrate the educational effectiveness of technology in urban and rural areas and economically distressed communities. CTCs provide access to information technology and related learning services to children and adults.
For more information: http://www.ed.gov/offices/OVAE/CTC/ctcnews.html.
21st Century Community Learning Centers
Purpose: To award grants to rural and inner-city public schools to enable them to plan, implement, or expand projects that benefit the educational, health, social services, cultural, and recreational needs of the community.
For more information: http://www.ed.gov/offices/OESE/21stcclc/.
PC Users Groups—-An Outstanding Source for Expert Volunteers
PC User Groups are a great source of computer experts and volunteers for reuse programs. According to Michael Rogers, President of the Atlanta PC Users Group, these user groups offer several benefits to reuse programs. One of the most important benefits is the volunteer work that members can provide. For example, at the ReBoot facility, 16 volunteers have stayed with the reuse program for 1 to 6 months, working in the warehouse, evaluating equipment, and stripping the machines and repairing them.
Members of PC Users Groups also provide a reuse program with connections to industry. The Atlanta group has members from Microsoft (an operating and software developer), Claris (a software provider), and Earthlink/Mindspring (an Internet service). These industry connections create opportunities to secure high end but technically obsolete computers, technically astute and dedicated volunteers, software donations, and grants.
User Group members receive benefits for their participation in a reuse program. Through providing a public service, the members derive satisfaction from their volunteer work. The club also gains an improved image within the community as it provides much needed services. Clubs find new members through their work with reuse programs.
Finding a User Group to partner with is not difficult. Local newspapers often list groups and their meeting times. Computer stores often know of clubs in the area and the local library also may provide listings. Additionally, there is the Association of PC User Groups, and a Web site at http://bbs.apcug.org/database/loclist.asp.
What the Future Holds for Reuse Programs
Several experts in computer reuse and information technology shared their predictions of what the future holds for reuse programs during a lively panel discussion. Other conference participants also contributed their thoughts. The panelists’ crystal balls indicate some interesting times ahead. The panelists included John Engman, Director of Jobs+ with CompTIA; Steve Kronzer, Director of the Wisconsin Bureau of Correctional Enterprises; Paul Luff, Coordinator of the New Hampshire Refurbished Equipment Marketplace; and Pat Hewitt, Worldwide IT Project Manager with Hewlett-Packard. Following are the experts’ predictions.
"Legacy" computer systems still will be needed to retrieve archived data. Even though prices are coming down, there are still some people who do not have the $500 needed for a new computer system. So reused equipment will remain in demand. Although critics of efforts to use recycled computers in schools have cited incompatible systems and lack of software for their insistence on furnishing only new systems, reused equipment still can be valuable to schools if the recycled computers meet a school’s requirements, such as receiving only high end computers and systems that match their current systems.
Engman envisions this national network as one that would be composed of many individual networks that could work together in a coalition. One focus would be on tapping into the pool of workers with disabilities to fill not only A+ jobs but also those that require other skills. Advanced certifications currently are being created for Network+, I-net+ and Server+. Reuse programs would play important roles in the network by identifying potential workers and by providing needed programs for training and a structure for hands-on experiences. Industry would be able to rely on the network to reduce the total costs to a company for hiring qualified, skilled personnel.
Today, no market exists for the plastics that are separated in the computer demanufacturing process, Kronzer said. Wisconsin has been trying to develop other uses for the raw materials but has had little success. Currently it is exploring the use of plastics to make insulation. More attention is needed in this area to make recycling more attractive.
Carolyn Phillips of ReBoot says the mantra should be "evaluate and evolve," which would allow reuse programs to keep up with the changing times. Luff pointed out that the New Hampshire Refurbished Equipment Marketplace, which uses a statewide vendor network to distribute its refurbished equipment, is now looking at a blended approach to distribution, with direct sales as a component.
This idea has several elements to consider:
For example, additional incentives could be created to encourage more people to donate. The New Millennium Classrooms Act (under consideration in the U.S. Senate), which is supported by CompTIA, would expand tax incentives for businesses that donate used computers, Engman said.
Connecticut RFP Process Yields Comprehensive AT Center
Connecticut's Department of Social Services recently announced that the Connecticut Institute for the Blind (CIB)/Oak Hill has been awarded a contract to develop a demonstration center and equipment restoration program for AT. CIB’s program, the New England Assistive Technology (NEAT) Marketplace, will operate a regional marketplace that potentially could become a national model for making new and used AT devices easier to find, try out, and purchase for individuals of all ages with disabilities.
Connecticut used a request for proposal (RFP) process to advance AT reuse efforts in the state. John Ficarro, Project Director of the Connecticut Assistive Technology Project, spearheaded the solicitation for proposals by coordinating the development of specifications, based on consumer input. The specifications had three conditions. A successful program needed: (1) to be comprehensive and statewide in nature, (2) to use a vendor-based model, and (3) to use a design that would enable the program to become self-sufficient. Collaboration with equipment providers and other entities in the state was strongly encouraged, but not required.
The NEAT Demonstration Center will feature specialized exhibits that show a vast array of state-of-the-art AT equipment; provide demonstrations and training by professional service providers, vendors, and manufacturers; offer information and referral, including funding sources, to customers; and provide opportunities for consumers to be assessed for appropriate use and fit of AT.
The NEAT Equipment Restoration Center will restore donated equipment and sell it for the cost of the parts and repair, plus a small mark-up, to vendors who carry that line of equipment. The vendors will then sell this equipment to their customers at a small mark-up, enabling people with disabilities to purchase needed equipment at a fraction of the original cost.
Temporarily, the NEAT Marketplace is operating in 6,000 square feet of space at the Oak Hill Campus, located in Hartford. This site provides space for demonstrations, workshops, and training, and a computer laboratory. Eventually permanent space will be constructed, comprised of 14,000 square feet of space, which will allow the center to expand.
For more information about the NEAT Marketplace go to: http://www.neatmarketplace.org.
Photo Caption: Photo of a FODAC contractor
modifying the interior of a van for a client.
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The RESNA Technical Assistance Project, Grant #H224A50006, is an activity funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), U.S. Department of Education (ED), under the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988, as amended. The information contained herein does not necessarily reflect the position or policy of NIDRR/ED or the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA), and no official endorsement of the materials should be inferred.
RESNA is an interdisciplinary association of people with a common interest in technology and disability. RESNA is the grantee funded under the Tech Act to provide technical assistance and information to the Tech Act projects.