Giving New Life to Old Computers

ATLANTA, April 21, 1999 — As part of an ongoing effort to empower people with disabilities through computer access, Tools for Life, a program operated by Georgia’s Department of Human Resources, is teaming with Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Lockheed Martin Corp. to refurbish 80 PCs today and tomorrow at Microsoft’s Atlanta Explorer Conference. The PCs will be distributed free to people with disabilities in Georgia after the conference.

“Your old computer can give new life!” is the founding principle of ReBoot, Tools for Life’s computer recycling program, established in March 1998 to promote independence for people with disabilities through the use of computer technology. ReBoot acquires used computer equipment, evaluates and repairs it, loads updated licensed software, and then distributes the equipment and provides training to people with disabilities in Georgia – free of charge. So far, more than 450 people have benefited from the program.

ReBoot director Carolyn Phillips is overwhelmed by the level of enthusiasm that volunteers and conference attendees have shown for the project.

“It’s really a creative and cost-effective solution that directly impacts the lives of people with disabilities. It’s incredibly gratifying to me to see past recipients and our corporate sponsors come out to events like this to volunteer their time to help give back to the community.”

Approximately 500 conference attendees passed through the booth today, many of whom had never considered the concept of PC recycling.

“A client of mine, Compass Bank, asked me if I knew of anyone who might be able to use their old computer equipment,” said Walter Hakenewert, Territory Manager for Gateway Computers. “I had no idea of any such organizations, until I came across the ReBoot booth today. What a perfect fit. My client gets a tax credit, and people with disabilities have the opportunity to receive computer equipment that would otherwise be thrown away.”

Microsoft’s contribution to the project includes booth space and software valued at $23,000, as well as a long-term commitment to support Tools for Life in the future. According to Marty Paradise, general manager for Microsoft’s Southeast District: “Thousands of computers are discarded every year that can easily be updated and put to good use. Tools for Life is making owning a computer a reality for people who don’t have access or can’t afford to purchase new equipment. Microsoft is committed to helping extend access to all individuals. A major part of this effort involves supporting organizations like Tools for Life.”

ReBoot volunteer Barbara Blossom received her computer through the program two years ago and now helps train other recipients to use their new computers.

“If it weren’t for ReBoot, I would not be here today,” Blossom said “The Internet now has accessibility features that allow blind people like myself to surf the Web just as a sighted person would. It has opened up so many opportunities for me to be successful at work and in the community.”

The ReBoot program, which receives federal funding through Tools for Life and is a statewide collaborative effort of many nonprofit organizations, including Touch the Future Inc. and Friends of Disabled Adults and Children, has quickly become a model for other PC recycling projects across the country.

“Georgia is proud to set an example of an innovative way to help people with disabilities use computers to become successful at school, work and in the community,” said Peggy Rosser, Director of the Georgia Division of Rehabilitation Services. “Employers should recognize that assistive technology can be used to create employment opportunities for disabled persons.”

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