Industry: Not-For-Profit Social Enterprise
Seven out of 10 adults who are blind are not employed and this is something The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. has been trying to fix since 1918. The Lighthouse is a manufacturing organization with over 50 years of experience in precision machining and employs more than 200 people who are blind. It can be difficult for young people who are blind to find job. If they are unable to find jobs early in their career, it’s more challenging for them to find jobs as adults. It’s very important for them to gain work experience, training, and skills so they can be successful. A person who is blind can acquire the same skills as a sighted person if they have the following:
1) Orientation and mobility
2) Accessibility to information (braille, screen-reading software, scanning optical recognition, etc.)
3) Workplace accommodations
Two-thirds of the organization’s revenue stems from manufacturing and one-quarter of that work is in commercial aerospace. The Lighthouse works closely with aerospace companies like The Boeing Company, Triumph Composite Systems in Spokane, and AMT in Arlington. Technology has been a big part of The Lighthouse’s success and makes many jobs more accessible for adults who are blind. Thirty years ago it was difficult for a worker who is blind to operate tools in a machine shop. Through technological advancements, adults who are blind can now operate a machine the same as a sighted person. For instance, a computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine adapted with screen-reading software can voice information to a machinist who is blind, allowing them to efficiently operate the machine.
The Lighthouse’s greatest success story is being a Boeing supplier that competitively bids on contracts against for-profit companies and winning bids based on quality, price and delivery; not due to many of their workers being blind.
The Lighthouse is also a resource for companies seeking to hire a person who is blind. They hold demonstrations for other employers to show them how efficiently a person who is blind can perform their job. The Lighthouse overcomes barriers to employment and works to make jobs more accessible for people who are blind.