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Weekly reuse tips are brought to you by Oklahoma ABLE Tech, the Pass It On Center, and the Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs (ATAP). Each week Oklahoma ABLE Tech will highlight tips designed to aid state and local communities with durable medical equipment (DME) and assistive technology (AT) reutilization.
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The program can serve clients of all ages and types of disabilities by providing reusable assistive technology of all types:
The secondary school reuse programs implemented in Vermont and Massachusetts represent an innovative strategy for expanding reuse into a younger age group.
Developing the capacity to serve all parts of the state can be challenged by size, geography, and limited resources. Some strategies for overcoming these challenges are:
Performance evaluation is a tool for personnel development if conducted through a program of consistently implemented, regularly scheduled, and documented sessions. It gives the worker regular feedback on progress, and it builds documentation if steps must be taken to discipline or terminate.
In addition to employees, volunteers can benefits from less formal feedback on performance. This may help someone develop useful job skills for the marketplace. An option for contractors might be review of performance against pre-defined expectations or standards.
Offering some job-related training for employees and volunteers builds a stronger reuse program and aids the community. Training opportunities may take several forms:
Use a structured orientation plan for new employees, contractors, and volunteers to ensure that they have a proper understanding of the mission and activities of the program. Develop a presentation and an orientation packet that includes:
Reuse programs all operate with limited staffing, so every individual is important. The recruitment and hiring of employees and contractors should be conducted according to written policies and procedures that facilitate the identification of candidates who meet specificed requirements. A few phone calls can ensure better hiring and avoid potential problems.
Job descriptions are not simply onerous bureaucracy. Used properly, they are useful tools in recruiting, personnel development, performance evaluation, and accountability for program activities. Create job descriptions for employees and volunteers. They clarify responsibility and accountability. While contractors are not employees and their work cannot legally be supervised in the same manner as employees, it is still possible to manage expectations by developing standards or expectations of performance (e.g., ethical conduct, compliance with all laws, timely completion of contract deliverables, and timely reporting and billing.
Return-on-Investment (ROI) is a business formula that calculates how much was returned for the amount of money invested. This can be determined for reuse by determining the value of goods and services provided for the total cost of the reuse program. This is a powerful tool in communicating with potential grantors, donors, or government agencies. Calculate the number and keep it ready to share with anyone it might influence. Share it in the newsletter. Hang a simple framed statement in the facility. Print a small label that can be placed on the back of a business card, for example. "This year we recaptured $2.87 for every dollar spent on AT reuse." Every person who gets the business card gets the message.
Records are subject to many laws. The nature of the record-keeping is determined by the types of information collected and stored. The program should:
Assess risk and liability and implement strategies to mitigate them. Risk is the possibility of loss or injury. Liability is responsibility or legal obligation. Being proactive to mitigate risk is a strategy for minimizing potential liability.
Devise a mission statement that defines the purpose of the organization, and drives program planning and activities. It should be brief, focused, and easily understood. The annual goals and objectives are formulated for consistency with the stated mission, resources are allocated in this manner, and customers and their support systems are treated in a manner consistent with the stated mission. Post the mission statement prominently in the facility, on the website, and in printed literature.
Document the scheduled follow-up with every new customer via telephone, e-mail, or in person. Use the routine customer follow-up by a trained individual to learn more about what could be done to better serve the customers expanding or improving services.
Users often have questions about the equipment after they get home. Initial training helps, but it's also important to have a trained individual respond to a new user's request for technical assistance promptly.
Does the program have written policies and procedures to confirm that the donor has the right to sell or doante the equipment? Think it isn't needed? The AT could be the property of the original payer, a rental, or it could be stolen. Procedures may help prevent this. Consider adding a statement to the donation receipt requiring the donor to affirm the right to donate or sell the item.
Give customers a trial period (of specified duration) with the device, both at the facility and the environment(s) in which it will be used.
The customer and his direct support provider(s) may need basic training on features, operation, maintenance, safety and troubleshooting for the device at the time the device is given. Don't have a lot of time for this level of customer involvement? Try videotaping these explanations for the most frequently reassigned items. Tell customers where to find this information online for later use, or create written instructions for basic operation and maintenance that can be printed on demand. This could be a scanned user manual.
Choice is a significant factor in the acceptance and use of an AT device. The customer and direct support provider(s) should be informed of all appropriate device options and allowed to participate in the choice of device.
Customers deserve an appropriate solution, not just a solution. Finding the appropriate device may be a challenge, and networking may help. Demonstration loans may help. In some circumstances, matching requires specially trained professionals who follow documented procedures to match customers to the technology solution. The professional may vary, depending on the situation and type of technology. If these professionals are not affordable, consider strategies to obtain their services.
Use written policies and procedures that are applied consistently for application of equipment and determination of eligibility.
Does the refurbishing program have a written procedure that is legally compliant and applied consistently for disposal of end-of-life and non-usable equipment/AT? Some ideas from programs:
Adequate space for storage of donated equipment is often a challenge. Try to:
Transportation is a major challenge for most reuse programs. If the program operates vehicles, safety and liability are major concerns. Policies and procedures for picking up and delivering equipment should confirm that:
Many programs offer a limited warranty on refurbished devices. The warranty should be given to the customer in writing when the device is delivered and the terms should be very specific. This language is often included on the customer's delivery receipt. The warranty may permit the user to return the device for refund (if a fee was paid) or have the device replaced with an equivalent device within a specified time period.
The program should have written policies and procedures that are consistent with current law and licensing agreements when loading software to refurbished computers.
If digital devices (computers, cell phones, tablets, PDAs, etc) come through the reuse program, all personal data should be permanently removed to avoid the possibility of identity theft or breach of privacy. This requires measures beyond the routine deleting of files because that leaves the data stored in the device.
Implement a written procedure for refurbishment/repair of equipment/AT that is consistent with manufactured specifications. This may include obtaining manufacturer training for technicians. Guard against the risk inherent in modifying the device from the original specifications (remanufacturing).
Devise written procedures based on sound medical or scientific practice for sanitizing equipment to protect both workers and new users.
Develop written, device-specific procedures for evaluating the repair and refurbishing needs of donated equipment. Some veteran refurbishing programs have donated both written checklists and videos for evaluating some common devices.
Develop written policies specifying the categories of devices that will or will not be accepted for donation, and methods to communicate the policies of prospective donors. This information can be posted in the facility, on the website, and included on a brochure. For ease of sharing, Project MEND (San Antonio) uses a business card with the needed devices on the front and information about dropping off donations or requesting services on the back. (A sample image of the card can be found in the Knowledge Base.)
Devise procedures to track device recalls, market withdrawals and safety alerts and to identify and contact individuals who received devices from the program that are affected by such notices. Assistive Technology for Kansans suggests putting this responsibility into someone's job description. The procedure should include:
An accurate and efficient method to track the inventory of available devices is important. This includes written policies and procedures and software capable of:
The specially-designed systems from AgoraNet and AT4All are widely used, but other programs use Quick Books or the built-in inventory reporting of 3dcart, an online store system for programs that refurbish and sell devices on the Internet.
A wealth of information and ideas from program leaders and speakers from all over the country is available for reference and use or reuse. Presentations from regional or national conferences are in the Knowledge Base under "National Conferences." Travel funds may be limited, but the presentations from ATIA Conferences and Reuse Conferences are available for viewing. (Please remember to credit the original source in your presentation.)
Smart organization and adequate space is essential for programs to conduct the chosen AT reuse activities. Consider:
Create a safe and secure workplace for employees, contractors, and volunteers and a secure place for customers. This depends on planning, policies, procedures, and training. Identify work areas that are not accessible to customers, secure storage for chemicals and tools, and appropriate safety training for each worker. Even if not required by law to do so, conduct regular drills for fire, weather, and other emergency evacuation circumstances.
Set an example for accessibility by ensuring that the program's facility is physically accessible for employees, contractors, volunteers, and customers. It should:
The program measures output by number of devices distributed, number of devices donated, and number of customers served. Survey participants to determine outcomes: how they use the device they received from the program to participate in work, education or daily living, and the level of satisfaction with devices and services.
Every program needs a comprehensive marketing plan to acquire and sustain community support. The plan should identify target audiences and use the most cost-effective means for reaching those audiences.
Search for the related topic in the Knowledge Base. Programs all over the country have generously donated all types of documents (nearly 600 so far) for reuse. The examples are attached to "articles." Download the file and use to make a customized version..
Nearly all successful AT reuse programs have partners: nonprofit reuse programs, Centers for Independent Living, and other agencies. They network with healthcare organizations, commercial suppliers, and civic groups. Identify every group that is supportive (or could be persuaded to be supportive) of reuse in the community. Sharing extends the reach of limited resources.
Multiple small streams of dependable income contribute to sustainability. Be wary of hosting large events that require significant investments of time and money. Here are ideas from programs:
Pursue strategies to sustain the program for the long term, and continue to improve and expand its services. The strategy should be documented in a written plan that addresses diversification of sources of income, strategies for enhancing community support, retention of employees and volunteers, and succession planning for program leadership. Make it a group effort by involving employees and key supporters in developing the plan. Use the IQ-ATR Online Program Assessment Tool in a group exercise to jump-start discussion of needs and opportunities. Watch videos for sustainability ideas from other program leaders.