According to data from National Industries for the Blind, 70% of working age individuals who are blind are not employed. According to American Community Survey, more than 7 million Americans ages 16 through 75 have reported a visual disability. Without proper tools and training, these individuals add to the blind employment statistic and collect federal disability dollars. IFB Solutions steps in to help change this discouraging number.
All funds raised on CrowdRise will be used for general operating support and applied towards our job training and workforce development opportunities. All training and all accommodations necessary for our employees to perform their jobs are covered operationally through sales revenues from federal and commercial contracts with support of grants and donations.
Our job conversion team works tirelessly to develop new manufacturing opportunities for individuals who are blind. The money raised on CrowdRise will support the work of this team and special needs accommodations they will need to implement to make jobs accessible to those who are blind.
We also offer upward mobility opportunities for individuals with computer literacy and customer service skills. Through installing screen reading and magnification software and also offering value-added training, we make administrative opportunities available to our labor pool of those who are blind within our organization and those willing to work from home or in call centers of our business clients.
Any training for an individual who is blind or visually impaired might take from two weeks to three months, depending on the complexity of a task the individual will perform. Between the paid training program, trainers’ time, specifically engineered accommodations for manufacturing machines, classroom instruction time, and orientation and mobility or independent living skills or assistive technology training, IFB Solutions invests hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in training its workforce, blind or sighted.
Demarrious Bowens, a five-year employee at IFB Solutions, recently earned his ABO Certification (American Board of Opticianry), becoming just the third person in the country who is visually impaired to complete the requirements.
“I was born legally blind with glaucoma and have lived my life overcoming odds and taking on new challenges just like the ABO certification,” said Bowens. “I love working with veterans who receive their glasses from IFB Optical. Like so many other employees here at IFB Solutions, the opportunities I have to pursue a career and build my skills are precious. I don’t know what I would do without the job, the team and the encouragement I receive from the IFB family.”
Bowens began at IFB Solutions as a sewing operator in the manufacturing facility and applied to work in customer service for the Optical Services division. Frances Crawford-Morris, supervisor for optical customer service, was impressed with Demarrious’ skills and encouraged him to pursue ABO certification. After more than three months of intensive study, Bowens took the test and learned that he had passed. The certification process helped him gain valuable technical knowledge that he uses in reviewing incoming customer orders and ensuring they can be manufactured to the requested specifications. More importantly, Bowens now works with nine other Optical Services employees, including three who are visually impaired, to prepare them for the ABO exam process. He’s developed a customized study guide and hosts weekly one-hour review sessions for the test.
“I’m looking forward to the day when it’s not so special when someone who is visually impaired receives their ABO certification,” said Bowens. “Losing your sight is incredibly challenging, but it should not keep us from pushing ourselves to achieve new goals.”
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