Q&A with Mike Johnson, National Industries for the Blind

How many people who are blind or visually impaired are employed throughout the country by NIB?
For 75 years, National Industries for the Blind (NIB) has focused on its mission to enhance opportunities for personal and economic independence for people who are blind, primarily through creating, sustaining, and improving employment. NIB, and its nationwide network of 91 nonprofit agencies, employs nearly 6,000 people who deliver a wide range of products and services to government and commercial customers, making it the nation’s largest employer of people who are blind.

Why are so many people who are blind unemployed?
Despite continued gains in employment, people who are blind remain one of the nation’s greatest untapped resources, with 70% of working-age Americans who are blind unemployed. Employers lack awareness of their capabilities or have other misconceptions regarding the value this group could bring. In fact, a recently published NIB survey revealed that the majority of hiring managers believe there are few jobs in their organization a person who is blind could do.

Assistive technologies, such as screen readers, have leveled the playing field for employees who are blind. Thanks to these technological advances, people who are blind are as capable of performing almost any job as a sighted person. Additionally, some employers wrongly assume they will have to invest a lot of money to set up a work environment that accommodates people who are blind. In reality, the cost is often nominal. In many cases, it is simply a matter of activating accessibility features that are already included in common business software. For example, screen reading and “voice over” technology is built into mobile phones, and popular operating systems come with screen magnification or narration capabilities—or both.

What are the benefits of purchasing SKILCRAFT® and AbilityOne® goods and products?
People who are blind produce more than 3,500 SKILCRAFT® products for federal government customers, from office and cleaning supplies, to computer accessories and hardware. They also provide knowledge-based services, such as contract closeout, supply-chain management, contact center operations, Section 508 assurance, and other administrative support. When federal customers purchase these quality products and services through the AbilityOne® Program, they are helping thousands of people who are blind participate in the workforce as tax-paying citizens, advance their careers, and lead independent lives. Every purchase creates jobs.

National Industries for the Blind (NIB) enhances opportunities for economic and personal independence for persons who are blind, by providing resources, training, and jobs. The organization also partners with 91 nonprofit agencies across the U.S. that offer education, counseling, and employment services across 35 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

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