How we got started helping people with disabilities.
Spark was founded in 1988 as the East Tennessee Special Technology Access Center by a group of parents, businesspeople, service providers and members of the disability advocacy community who held an uncommon belief in the power of technology to help people with disabilities reach their goals. Over the years, Spark has provided a wide range of assistive technology services to thousands of people with disabilities throughout East Tennessee.
Throughout the pandemic, Spark remained open due to the crucial need of durable medical equipment in East Tennessee for people that do not have other means of acquiring the equipment. If people have medical insurance, they may pay for some items, but not others. Items for bathrooms are essential and are usually not covered by insurance. Others may be uninsured and if they have been in the hospital, do not have the ability to purchase extra equipment that will help keep them safe in their homes. Spark can provide hospital beds, bed rails, lifts, canes, crutches, walkers, rollators, wheelchairs, and transport chairs.
Spark can help provide assistance to people in our community from babies to seniors in many areas. We have adapted toys and strollers for babies with special needs, gait trainers, standers, pediatric wheelchairs, and feeder seats. We demonstrate some of the newest technology that can help a person with visual disabilities find out what is in front of them-through apps and a device called OrCam. CCTV's, or magnifiers, can help a person read, write checks, or look at photos clearly. We have a certified JAWS (Job Access With Speech) instructor that can teach someone to use the computer using the software and keystrokes to navigate the internet, go to school or work on the computer without having to see the screen. She can also help companies check their websites to find out if they are accessible. For someone with visual disabilities, being able to order items online, find a phone number on a website or just browse a website, having built-in accessibility is essential. We are happy to help people navigate assistive technology to find out what will best help them. It could be as low tech as a phone stand, to a device that uses your eyes to type to be able to talk.
Spark has a support group that meets in person as well as virtually once a month for people with disabilities to share their stories, resources, victories as well as challenges in a safe, supportive environment.
Our new program, Spark Connects, provides computers to seniors and people with disabilities. Spark partners with another Knoxville organization, Scott Recycling, to receive computers for reuse. They wipe them clean and donate a percentage of what they receive to Spark. Having access to the outside world makes a huge difference in people's daily lives! To be able to communicate with loved ones, write an email, search a website for information or just be entertained is something we should all have access to.
Spark also has an innovation team that creatively thinks of ways to provide solutions for people that may not be able to find what they are looking for on the market. Partnering with the Knox Makers helps create resolutions for people with needs that may not be able to be solved another way.
Spark is dedicated to help individuals find the solutions to the problems that they may be facing. Through assistive technology, training, equipment, demonstrations, loans, innovations or referrals, we strive to help in any way that we can in order to support our customers to live the way they would like to!