Community Catalyst Award
Organization: TecAccess LLC
Name: Debra Ruh
Title: CEO & Founder
1. What do you feel has been your most notable contribution to catalyzing positive tech-related community action or access in RVA in recent years?
TecAccess’s continuum of effort to make technology and technology-enabled access available to everyone in our society, particularly wounded warriors and the aging, is our contribution, and our business mode.
TecAcces got some significant national attention in 2009, including being named a Trailblazer in Dell’s “Take Your Own Path” campaign, helping shine light on Virginia as a center for innovation in technology access. Bringing positive national media attention to Virginia is our latest accomplishment, driven by our continuing work to make technology available to everyone. One example of that work is Virginia’s DVETS program, started several years ago and now a nationally-recognized platform.
Ultimately, it comes down to this: disabled citizens in Virginia, and across the globe, want to participate, be taxpayers, have a voice. We help them achieve that.
2. Describe the impact of that contribution on the RVA community.
We’ve put the region on the map as a successful example of the power of employing and engaging the disabled community. Best practices for the entire country are being developed and demonstrated by a Richmond company.
In the last three years, Virginia has gone from near the bottom in services to the disabled to a solid middle-of-the-pack, which is really aggressive progress. TecAccess has helped make that happen. We won a grant for Virginia’s Office of the Sr. Advisor on Disability Policy (Kaine administration) for career development for the disabled, which came about because of our efforts to establish best practices. Another achievement was getting Virginia recognized by the National Technical Assistance & Research Center at Rutgers University.
Our biggest impact is the public/private partnerships we help create, where we work to develop best practices for global technology-access efforts.
3. What motivated you to create or get involved in this program?
We wanted to demonstrate how a small for-profit company can make a big impact in an important global effort, particularly in hiring the disabled. That was our spark. We turned on a flashlight, and now it’s become a floodlight.
4. What risks have you seen with your involvement?
The risk is that we won’t achieve our mission. We’ve had to tighten our belts in the recent downturn, along with everyone else. Reinvention, opening new markets, re-tooling our processes, all of it became part of our daily work. We’re a risk-management IT company, with a new focus on how to both manage risk AND get recognized for being a market leader.
5. What are the future plans for this program?
We are looking to build TecAccess into a scalable business model that can be adopted by companies globally. Helping our disabled fellow citizens fully participate in the economic growth of our local, national, and worldwide economy is our goal.
6. Explain why you believe you should win this award.
The work that we do is incredibly powerful. Social entrepreneurship is our model, with both social good and the profit motive having equal weight. We’re doing things here in central VA that have global impact, demonstrating the positive impact of fully including everyone in economic growth, and the growth of human potential. We’re changing the world from right here in central Virginia.
TecAccess makes technology accessible for all as a global leader in access for the disabled, including wounded warriors and the aging. Working to build public/private partnership to further its technology-access-for-all mission, TecAccess has been recognized internationally in the media, and by industry leaders like Microsoft and Dell.