By Mike Johnson,
National Industries for the Blind
you know that 70 percent of working age Americans who are blind are not
continued gains in employment over the years, this alarming statistic reveals
that people who are blind remain one of our nation's greatest untapped
resources. The opportunity to capitalize on this qualified, dedicated, and
available labor pool should be enough to get any employer excited!
employment gap between people who are blind and people who are sighted fuels
our mission at National Industries for the Blind (NIB): to enhance
opportunities for personal and economic independence for people who are blind,
primarily through creating, sustaining, and improving employment.
nearly 75 years, NIB has been building careers for people who are blind. Today,
NIB and its 90 associated nonprofit agencies serve as the largest employer of
people who are blind. More than 6,100 people who are blind work at NIB or one
of our associated agencies, producing thousands of different products for federal
and commercial customers, providing a variety of administrative, technology,
and managerial services, and operating hundreds of military retail stores
across the country.
we celebrate our 75th anniversary in 2013, NIB will focus on raising awareness
and educating employers about the capabilities of people who are blind.
Together, we can create more employment opportunities for the thousands of
Americans who need them.
Dispelling the Myths
Americans who are blind have worked and continue to work across many different
industries, the vast majority of working age people who are blind are not
are many myths and misconceptions about the abilities of people who are blind. As
a recruiter or hiring manager, you may ask yourself, "Is a person who is blind a
good fit for my company?" The answer is YES! People who are blind are as
capable as their sighted counterparts. For example, at the Lighthouse for the
Blind in Seattle, skilled technicians who are blind manufacture aircraft parts
for Boeing commercial jets, including parts for aircraft wings, lighting, and
cabin seating. These parts are complex-engineered and fabricated to precise
standards-and require highly trained and skilled labor to manufacture them.
an employer, you may think accommodations for people who are blind are too
expensive. In reality, these costs are nominal. Data from the American Foundation
for the Blind and the U.S. Department of Labor indicate that 88 percent of
accommodations cost less than $1,000,[ 1 ]
50 percent cost less than $500, and 15 percent cost nothing.[ 2 ]
Check with your local vocational
rehabilitation agency to find out what assistance they can provide. The bottom
line: contributions that people who are blind make to a company far outweigh
the costs of accommodations.
probably agree that it's socially responsible to employ people who are blind,
but you may not understand how it will affect your company's bottom line. Many
employers have already discovered that it makes good business sense to employ
people who are blind. Consumers support businesses that employ people who are
blind or otherwise disabled. For example, one study sponsored by the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce showed that 54 percent of households are more responsive to
businesses that feature people with disabilities in their advertising.[ 3 ]
Disability-friendly businesses earn the loyal patronage of people who are blind
or have disabilities and their network of supporters.
People who are blind
are productive, skilled, and devoted employees. As a result, their turnover
rate is relatively low. In fact, a team of researchers at DePaul University
found that employees with disabilities stayed on the job roughly four months longer than employees without
disabilities.[ 4 ]
This not only reduces the amount of resources employers spend on recruiting and
in/out-processing, but higher retention can help improve team cohesiveness and
employee morale. Additionally, people who are blind enhance your company's
overall diversity, offering ideas, opinions, and perspectives that are critical
for innovation and growth. A strong workforce is an inclusive workforce!
Engineering-the Great Equalizers
technologies continue to close the gap between people who are blind and sighted,
and these tools are more sophisticated and cost-effective than ever. People who
are blind use a variety of methods to communicate and interact in their
workplaces, and most forms of print or electronic media can be made accessible
with the help of technology. For example, computer software can translate print
into speech, magnify computer screen images, and enlarge text to a readable
technology isn't enough, bring in the engineers! In the manufacturing industry,
rehabilitation engineers adapt work environments to help people who are blind succeed
on the job and to be as productive and efficient as possible. For example, at
the Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Utica, New York,
a rehabilitation engineer from NIB designed and built a customized jig for the
agency's rubber band counting and bagging operation. This workstation
modification increased productivity by more than 35 percent, and allowed
employees to perform their tasks completely independently.[ 5 ]
the use of technology and/or simple, low-cost changes to a work environment,
employers are breaking down barriers to success for people who are blind. Are
you ready to take the next step?
How You Can Help
learned that people who are blind are dedicated, capable employees. Now is the
time to take action-hiring people who are blind not only changes their lives
but also benefits companies in a variety of ways. Here's what you can do to get
First, continue to educate yourself and your colleagues
about the benefits of employing people who are blind. It's natural to be
cautious about the unknown, particularly when making hiring decisions. However,
thousands of success stories have proven that people who are blind are devoted,
productive employees. Accommodations are not expensive; in fact, most are free
or cost next to nothing.
partner with NIB or one of its associated agencies to give your company a
competitive edge. We work with companies to meet the needs of their customers,
including federal agencies that require disabled-employee labor on their
contracts. Our ability to connect companies with qualified employees can make your
proposals more competitive and open up additional business opportunities.
just do it! There are roughly 6.3 million Americans with significant vision
loss who have a high school degree or GED, and 4.8 million with a bachelor's
degree or higher.[ 6 ] As
you review résumés and interview candidates, remember that blindness is not a
limitation when it comes to doing great work. Many employers have already
discovered the benefits of hiring people who are blind-now it's your turn!
more information about NIB and its associated agencies, visit www.nib.org.
[ 1 ]
American Foundation for the Blind. Learning About Blindness. Retrieved
September 4, 2012.
[ 2 ]
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Center for Workforce Preparation. Disability: Dispelling the Myths, How People
With Disabilities Can Meet Employer Needs, page 2. Retrieved September
[ 3 ]
U.S. Chamber for Commerce Center for Workforce Preparation. Disability: Dispelling the Myths, How People
With Disabilities Can Meet Employer Needs, page 5. Retrieved September
[ 4 ]
DePaul University. Exploring the Bottom Line: A Study of the
Costs and Benefits of Workers with Disabilities, page 12. Retrieved
September 4, 2012.
[ 5 ]
National Industries for the Blind. Small Changes with a Big Impact,
Opportunity Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 1 (Winter 2011), page 9. Retrieved
September 6, 2012.
[ 6 ]
National Federation of the Blind. Statistical Facts About Blindness in the United States.
Retrieved September 4, 2012.
Sep 30 2012, 09:27 PM
Filed under: accessibility, blind, engineering, technology, Employment, accommodations, Unemployment, careerer advice, visually impaired impaired, nonprofit, National Industroes for the Blind (NIB)