Hire a Person who is Blind

On this day in 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Wagner O’Day Act into law. You may not have heard of it, but this landmark piece of legislation opened the door to unlimited employment opportunities for people who are blind and led to the creation of National Industries for the Blind (NIB).

PBA Industries, our manufacturing and assembly division, is one of the 91 nonprofits that are associated with NIB, and this year is NIB’s 75th anniversary. Thanks to the Wagner O’Day Act, PBA Industries, located on the North Side, is able to provide high-quality products and services to federal government and military customers, while creating employment opportunities for people who are blind. This is important, because 70 percent of working-age Americans who are blind are not employed.

More than 75 percent of our PBA Industries workers are blind or vision impaired craftsmen who create some unique products for both the public and private sectors. One product line includes custom, peat-filled socks, pillows or pads that absorb spilled oils and fuels. With relatively minimal adaptations, our employees who are blind also make construction safety products, portable highway signs, signage, and textiles. But we’re not the only ones doing big things. Our partners across the country do everything from sewing military uniforms and producing office supplies, to analyzing budgets, managing projects  and leading multimillion-dollar organizations that deliver products and services to government and commercial customers.

We’ve made tremendous strides in expanding employment opportunities for people who are blind, and technology has helped to level the playing field in the workplace. Using a computer program that enlarges the screen or reads the text into headphones, people who are blind are able to seamlessly perform almost any job as well as a sighted person.

Despite our continued success, misconceptions still exist about the capabilities of people who are blind. A recent survey found that the majority of those responsible for hiring believe that there are few jobs in their organization that a person who is blind can successfully perform. At PBA Industries and Blind & Vision Rehab Services, we know this is not the case because we proudly employ 14 people who are blind or vision impaired.

So, how can you help?  First, inform yourself and your colleagues about the benefits of employing people who are blind. Second, 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. As you prepare to hire, remember that blindness is not a limitation when it comes to doing great work. We also invite you to visit PBA Industries to meet our employees and to get a first-hand look at their exceptional work.