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Blind Employment Awareness Day in Milwaukee Stresses Importance of Meaningful Work

·3 min read

Community officials toured local organizations to learn about workplace accessibility

MILWAUKEE, May 6, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- There's certainly much more to a job than a paycheck. A steady job provides community, personal fulfillment, and growth. The positive impact of employment is especially powerful in the blind and visually impaired community, where recent surveys have shown an unemployment rate of as high as 60%. However, in Milwaukee, a local awareness day is working to bring that down.

IBVI employee Emily Merced handles a box of pens manufactured at the IBVI facility in West Allis, Wisconsin.
IBVI employee Emily Merced handles a box of pens manufactured at the IBVI facility in West Allis, Wisconsin.

The beginning of a holiday
Blind Employment Awareness Day (BEAD) was made official through a proclamation by Mayor Tom Barrett, and was observed across the city on May 6, 2021. Industries for the Blind and Visually Impaired (IBVI), a local nonprofit organization that makes supplies like pens, brushes and military kits for the US government, led the charge to create the day to show the importance of meaningful employment for people who are blind or visually impaired.

"This day is meant to encourage all people to learn more about how they can make the working world more accessible," said CJ Lange, president and CEO of IBVI. "The truth is, with the right tools and training, those who are blind or visually impaired can thrive in the workplace."

A little can go a long way
Beyond awareness, BEAD is about showing that with minor advancements in the workplace, people who are blind or visually impaired can succeed. Lange explained in a panel discussion at IBVI that key technology for employees includes computer screen readers like Job Access With Speech (JAWS) or magnifying electronic eyewear like eSight.

"A lot of employers may not be aware of these technologies, or there may be fear there," said Jeff Young, a project coordinator at IBVI who uses screen readers all day at his desk job. "You don't need to be afraid, you can diversify your workforce and hire blind and visually impaired people."

However, technology is only part of the solution. Businesses can also make tangible improvements to their workplaces, like adding textured floors, doors with windows and braille on signs. They can also set up public transportation options for staff who can't drive to work.

Local support makes a difference
As a part of the BEAD celebration, IBVI also invited local elected officials to their three facilities, in West Allis, Menomonee Falls and Janesville. As they visited, they got to see the IBVI operation, but also the importance of prioritizing meaningful employment.

"Work provides dignity and a sense of purpose," said Sue Conley of the Wisconsin State Assembly during her visit to the IBVI facility in Janesville. "I think with the right amount of thought, consideration, and the tools that folks need, anyone who has visual impairments certainly can work in an environment like this. You really make sure that they have everything they need to be successful. And that's important."


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SOURCE Industries for the Blind & Visually Impaired