Hello, I am looking for feedback. I am a quadriplegic myself and design assistive technologies for other disabled individuals with limited or no use of their hands and arms. Some of our disabled customers and their family members or personal care attendants helping them, need much more hand-holding and assistance learning how to use and most effectively apply new assistive technologies which they may have purchased from us or even another assistive technology manufacturer. I offer training and support fee-for-services, however my challenge is many of them cannot afford the amount of time they really need to be as effective as possible. Especially non-technical people who may need significantly more help than technical folks. Just acquiring the hardware can be a significant strain on their budget. I would love to help everyone for free, but I cannot pay employees to spend hours helping someone for free or we will not be here tomorrow to provide those assistive technologies to them in the first place. I am wondering if there would be volunteers interested in helping disabled individuals learn how to use their assistive technologies as effectively as possible whether it is environmental controls for TV, lighting, etc., voice controlled cell phone systems, adaptive video game controls, etc. My objective would be that any disabled individual could request assistance with any assistive technology, regardless if it is from my company or another. I am thinking to set this up as a separate nonprofit. I would personally sponsor and setup the technology to manage the requests. Volunteers could provide assistance from home and responded by e-mail, chat on the phone, etc.
I no this would be very rewarding for potential volunteers as I end up doing it myself in an impromptu fashion, but I am not sure if people would see it as a conflict of interest? My goal is just to help disabled people be more independent and through better communications, more independence, and greater involvement they will have a significant impact on their local, state, national, and even international communities by empowering them to do whatever they do best.
Please let me know your thoughts? If I set this up and provided the training and resources to the volunteers, would someone like yourself be interested? This would require people who are patient, and someone who understands technology, and has good personal communication skills. It might also be an opportunity for some disabled using assistive technologies to help others like themselves. It is very rewarding to know you have helped change someone's life in the assistance provided can have significant impact for years to come out only for that one person but for every one around them that their life touches.
Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.
EMPLOYEEI’m excited for you!!!!0Hi Mark,
If you are looking for resources to help you start a non-profit, VolunteerMatch is a good place to get started.
In most ways, starting a nonprofit is just like starting a small business. Good resources to help you get started include a guide by the Foundation Center, at http://foundationcenter.org/getstarted/tutorials/establish/index.html and http://www.idealist.org/info/Nonprofits. The FAQ at http://www.idealist.org/info/Nonprofits should answer your questions on why you would be a nonprofit 501(c)(3) and not a (c)(4) and a public charity vs. a private foundation. It also should have info on how to create your bylaws, etc.
Once you file for your nonprofit status, you can use volunteers to help you work out the details. VolunteerMatch is a good, free resource. Volunteers can help you figure out how to promote your organization, how to fundraise for it, how to create your webpage, etc. Also, calling the local business schools to see if you can get a team of students to help out is a great way to get some free technical help.
Please let me know if you have any additional questions!
Thank you for your general response Matt. However, I am still looking for various peoples feedback on what potential volunteer's or general public's perception might be regarding these goals and objectives. Since I sell the products we design, I thought some may feel we should just hire people to provide these services. Which I do, but I simply cannot hire someone to spend five hours or more on the phone with a customer who purchased an item that costs $50 or $100. if that is the case, then I must charge $300-$500 for the piece of hardware simply because some customers require much more help and services than others. So in the goal to try to make the equipment available to as many people as low cost as possible, it seemed prudent to try to separate the design and delivery of the products from training and support. There are lots of other nonprofits that provide these kind of training and support services, but many do not have the technical capabilities or direct support that we could provide. Also by separating the two activities from a for-profit and nonprofit, and allows for nonprofit pursuing funding from various other sources that help support these type of teaching/training activities