The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. experiences the same uncertainties in our community and our national economy as you do in your organization or personal household. Companies and government agencies sometimes have no choice but to react cautiously to falling revenue and changing financial markets.
However, there are constants for the Lighthouse that don’t change, such as: hundreds of thousands of unemployed blind adults nationwide. A 90% braille illiteracy rate among blind adults. An unemployment rate of over 70% for blind individuals and over 80% for Deaf-Blind individuals.
These constants make it impossible for the Lighthouse to waver from its goal of doubling our employment of people who are blind, Deaf-Blind, or are blind with other disabilities by the end of 2016.
I want to tell you how we’re continuing to work toward that goal as guided by our Strategic Plan. Being a force for change isn’t something we do only when times are good – in fact, turbulent economic times underscore how badly-needed the Lighthouse’ mission is. Recent accomplishments include:
- Continued growth of our capacity at Inland Northwest Lighthouse in Spokane, where office wallboard sales increased this year.
- Careful management of our internal resources — as we project that sales to the Federal Government will decline, we are making plans to redeploy resources to meet the needs of growing aerospace sales.
- Stage-setting for new revenue sources through participation in the CONNECT Supply Chain, a partnership between non-profit social enterprises. CONNECT agencies are all focused on creating job opportunities for people with barriers to employment due to a variety of disabilities, including developmental delays, physical limitations, and visual disabilities.
- Capitalizing on new opportunities, such as our Contract Management Support (CMS) initiative, which just concluded its first successful year.
In this issue of Horizons, you’ll read in more detail about the Lighthouse’s expanded capabilities and opportunities for your support. All these examples underscore why community investment is so important. Without the charitable support provided by our community, we would not be able to:
- Provide adaptive technology that make over 240 jobs accessible for blind and DeafBlind individuals.
- Offer braille training – braille literacy in the U.S. has decreased dramatically in recent years, but it creates so many opportunities for people who know it.
- Staffing of American Sign Language (ASL) and tactile interpreters who provide communication access our employees.
- Holding our internationally renowned Deaf-Blind Retreat.
Reaching our goal of 500 livable wage jobs for people who are blind by 2016 requires three things: The success of our social enterprise business model. The dedication of our employees. And the support from friends like you. Through ambitious and careful leadership and the development of a positive employee culture, the Lighthouse can create the first two elements. I hope you will join us by providing the third element.
Thank you for your commitment to the blind and DeafBlind communities – and for your support.
President & CEO, The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc.