Phillip Mason, Industries for the Blind, Rotary Club of New Berlin, New Berlin RotaryHelping the blind obtain meaningful employment
Nationally, approximately 70% of the blind and visually impaired are unemployed. Industries for the Blind, Inc., works to lower that figure, as we learned on March 9. According to Phillip Mason, IB employs the blind at its own facility, and encourages businesses to hire visually impaired.
IB employs approximately 80 people at its facility in  West Allis, Wis. They produce a wide variety of products, including office and janitorial supplies, promotional items (team jerseys, corporate apparel), and other products. Another department provides full design and construction assistance for remodeling and rebuilding projects.
While most of their business comes from federal agencies, IB is looking to increase its relationship with private sector businesses. This includes selling more goods and services, and placing individuals in jobs. (Unemployment rate for the blind in Wisconsin is about 60%.) IB offers grants to help businesses purchase the JAWS (Job Access With Speech) software. "Just about any job can be made accessible," Mason says. The visually impaired include doctors, lawyers and other professionals. "A blind person can do [nearly] anything a sighted person can do."
A for-profit company, IB looks to grow through new contracts. Wisconsin offers a 5% state tax credit for businesses that use IB's services. Want to learn more? Stop by their facility at 445 S. Curtis Rd. in West Allis. "You can't appreciate what we do until you visit us," Mason says. For more information, visit the Industries for the Blind website, or call 800-642-8778.