National Industries for the Blind: America’s best-kept manufacturing secret

National Industries for the Blind attended its first Outdoor Retailer show this Winter Market attempting to forge partnerships with outdoor companies.

Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 23-26. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

There’s a common misconception that people who are legally blind cannot work, said Kevin Lynch, but that’s simply not the case.

“People assume because a person may be legally blind or blind that it limits their ability to do too much,” said Lynch, the president and CEO of the National Industries for the Blind (NIB), “but by utilizing the technology that’s out there, providing the kind of training that is necessary and solving issues like transportation, there is very little a blind person isn’t capable of doing.”

The NIB attended its first Outdoor Retailer show to attempt to forge partnerships with outdoor companies.

Created by an act of Congress in 1938, the NIB has focused on enhancing opportunities for legally blind individuals for 75 years, and has connected them to employment with its 91 partners throughout the country to make a variety of products.

Some of the first products NIB laborers produced were mops and brooms, Lynch said, but over the years the group grew its capabilities. Now the labor force produces mattresses and military work uniforms — everything from the helmet covers to the pants.

The NIB works with communities around the country to ensure people who are legally blind and their families know that these opportunities are available to them.

“What we do is go out and make sure to inform local communities that there are employment options for people who are legally blind,” Lynch said.

According to the NIB, seven in 10 working-age legally blind Americans are out of work.

“We’re really excited that the show allows us to showcase our talent and capabilities to potential partners that will help us create employment and bring jobs back in from overseas,” Lynch said. “We really put importance on products that are made in America by proud people who are blind.

“We are one of America’s best-kept secrets, and we’re trying to change that,” Lynch added. “People need to come and take a look and see because we are surprising people with what we’re able to do.”

--Ana Trujillo



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