Computers and People with Disabilities

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Organization's Mission Statement

Techs&Trainers provides meaningful work for people with disabilties and other barriers to employment, provides computer equipment to those in need and provides environmentally friendly solutions for old computers.

Submission Information

Impact Essay



They come with referrals from social workers all over the city. They come from women’s shelters, a Developmental Pediatric Clinic, senior centers, and veteran’s housing.

Many come in wheelchairs brought by family, friends or MetroLift.

For most this will be their first step into the world of technolgy. They are excited and apprehensive. They want to use e-mail and play games. They want to escape from isolation.

"My daughter likes using the computer. She types all the time, which keeps her hands limber. She does it because she loves it". - Mother of a client with cerebral palsy

Others plan to enter the workforce or complete their education. This computer is a tool towards attaining those goals.

Sometimes they don’t come to us directly. A PTO donated funds to provide computers for a dozen students. Project Cure periodically picks up equipment to be sent along with medical supplies to countries around the world. Several churches order computers to set up labs.

Techs & Trainers refurbishes 500-800 computers for them each year using Windows software from Microsoft.


But Techs & Trainers is not only about those who receive computers. It is about those who refurbish the computers. It is about the process and workers themselves. Workers who have been marginalized and stigmatized now learn skills.

Many people with physical and mental disabilities live in isolation struggling to find meaningful employment. When given a chance to work together and learn new skills, they develop a sense of pride, hope, and personal worth. As they build computers that help others, they often gain a positive perspective on their own situation:

"When I deliver a computer to the home of a physically handicapped person, I think that my life is not so difficult after all."

-Techs &Trainers employee

In Harris County and in Texas, the needs of the mentally ill are poorly addressed. Texas ranks 47th in the nation when it comes to spending on mental health care. A report from Mental Health America of Greater Houston shows more than 92,000 adults in Harris County have a serious mental illness and no insurance. MHA reports only about 18 percent receive services. Approximately 16% of our jail populations and up to 50% of the homeless suffer from untreated mental illness.

In addition to the unmet health needs of the mentally ill, a very large need exists for appropriate employment. Appropriate employment is intellectually stimulating. Very little such work is available. Problems with medication adjustment, keeping focused, medical appointments, and transportation issues often make full time work difficult. Neither government programs nor nonprofits provide adequate medical care to this population, much less providing stimulating work.

"How do you know all the answers?" asked "John’s" classmates in his A+ certification course. "Do you work in IT?"

"No, I just volunteer at Techs&Trainers", he replied.

Work can be very therapeutic if appropriate for the individual. People blossom when they have challenging work such as installing computer software, testing computer systems, teaching others how to use computers, and delivering computers to the disabled.

Labeled a special needs student "James" never attended a regular school. He did not meet the guidelines for training set by The Department of Rehabilitation. Dishwashing was his only employment opportunity. However, he loved working on computers and gradually learned the basics at Techs & Trainers. He has become a skilled and reliable technician. Recently he was one of the gurus for a group of bright, energetic middle school students. He rarely stopped smiling.


Techs & Trainers mission extends beyond these two groups of people to the population at large.

Like many people, "Doris" stashed her old computers in closets because she didn’t know what else to do. She didn’t want to pollute the landfills here or in other countries. She was delighted to be able to bring them to Techs&Trainers where they could be useful.

An annual average of 1500 computers (plus monitors, printers and boxes of stuff with cords) comes through our doors from businesses and individuals. Delivery vehicles ranging from cars to 40 foot trucks bring them in.

Many groups sponsor recycling drives in their areas. We love to see our workers interacting with group volunteers. Volunteers gain an appreciation of the capabilities of workers with disabilities. The workers feel the appreciation and acceptance.

What happens to the equipment that can’t be refurbished? Techs & Trainers uses discarded computer parts to assemble usable computers and recycles the unusable parts for their metal value.

Deconstruction is labor-intensive. It’s definitely not cost-effective. But middle school boys love it. And so we host school groups, church groups and individuals to volunteer in the task. Trainees deconstruct to learn about the components and functions of the computers. Others volunteer just to help.

They all learn the importance of caring for the environment.

Recently, a Boy Scout earned his Eagle badge by organizing a Recycling Drive combined with Volunteer Deconstruction.

Each of these three programs are interdependent forming a unique organization with services for the entire community.

  1. Providing computers to people with disabilities and others below the digital divide.
  2. Providing training and employment to people with disabilities
  3. Diverting equipment from landfills. Turning toxic waste into useful products.

Without the MARS program none of this would be possible. It has not merely extended the reach of our programs, it is the basis of the programs.

Techs & Trainers could not refurbish computers without Windows software. Therefore, it could not distribute computers or accept computer donations. Therefore, it could not train or pay workers.

The gratitude of all our beneficiaries then extends to MARS. As many of them say to us "Thank you and God bless you".

Submission Category
Transformations to Maximize Impact
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