Image from elkharttruth.com
Image from elkharttruth.com

Republican presidential candidates remain hopeful as they put up campaign signs all at New Hampshire’s Route 4. However, all these corrugated plastic signs also pose threat to the environment once they are no longer in use. But to the people of Carly California, they are not just worthless garbage that piles on dump sites. They can be a tool to help disabled individuals become more independent.

Therese Willkomm; a professor in the University of New Hampshire has been collecting donations of unused campaign signs for the past 4 years now. She found these materials very useful for her occupational therapy classes. They can be made into a sandwich holder for people without arms and as tabletop iPad stands.

“We observed that elections bring a lot of corrugated plastic materials and realized that they can be transformed into assistive technology solutions for those who are disabled” Ms. Willkomm said. “We have also called the Republican Party and Democratic Party and asked for donations of discarded election signs and are expecting a lot of them coming in”, she added.

Willkomm has dedicated her life in helping people with disabilities and urged her students to think out of the box to serve these people.

“We can never run short in our materials considering the big part that New Hampshire has in the presidential campaign process”, Willkomm said confidently.

In New Hampshire, the law mandates that campaign signs have to be removed on the second Friday past election. However, signs used to announce the winners can be retained. Other campaigns however set aside their signs so they can make use of them in other states.

Willkomm’s generous project has benefited a lot already. One of them is Marika Steir who has limited mobility because of her cerebral palsy. She was a recipient of  an iPhone holder that can be attached to her wheelchair. This was made by Willkomm and her students.

“Marika works at an adult day care center and she took all the effort to be as independent as she can be. In the past, she used to put her phone in a bag that hangs on her wheelchair.  However, things are a lot better since she received her iPhone holder”, says Marika’s aunt.

“Corrugated plastics are washable and durable. In fact, the ones we made 4 years ago are still working up to these days. And once you no longer want to use it, we can always transform it to something useful” said Willkomm.