Non-profit launches Web site as resource for disabled

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Tuesday, April 30, 2002

SAN JOSE, Calif. — After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 dampened its business, a for-profit Web site helping consumers find mobility and assistive devices is seeking a second chance as a non-profit.

ResourceHunt-.com closed last year, but its owner, Paiman Komeilizadeh, recently started a similar but non-profit business, the Able Project (www.ableproject.org).

"After Sept. 11, the whole market was at a standstill," said Komeilizadeh, executive director of the Able Project. "We couldn't raise any more money, but we knew we were helping a lot of people, so we couldn't just say, 'Forget about it.'"

The Web site allows visitors to research and compare some 2,000 mobility and assistive devices such as wheelchairs from various manufacturers. Once visitors select a device they'd like to purchase, they enter their zip code, and the Web site spits out a list of dealers in their area who sell it.

Komeilizadeh, who has muscular dystrophy, knows finding equipment's not easy. He said it usually entails going from dealer to dealer, comparing brands and prices. But he said the Web site simplifies things by bringing all equipment to one place.

"Our mission is to help people with disabilities or the people who care for them find equipment faster, easier and at competitive prices," Komeilizadeh said.

Because the Able Project's now a non-profit, Komeilizadeh said he has lowered the price of a dealer sponsorship from up to $4,000 per year to $1,150 per year. He also has cut other charges, such as the charge accrued when a dealer has a referral funneled to him.

To make up for lost revenue, Komeilizadeh said the project's harnessing the networking powers of its board members, such as Dr. Jonathan Katz, a Stanford Hospital neurologist, to raise money.

"We'd like to handle more national inquiries, and after that, in the long term, to handle them from countries like Afghanistan," said Komeilizadeh, who immigrated to the United States from Iran at age 18. "Our goal is to get 300 dealers on board in our first year."

Komeilizadeh has a way to go. With Resourcehunt.com, which closed doors December 2001, he had nine dealers on board. But according to Komeilizadeh, www.ableproject.com is already attracting 100 visitors a day.

"The need is there," he said. "There are over 60 million people with disabilities in the United States.." HME

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