For people who are blind or low vision, opportunity is always knocking at Beyond Vision. The nonprofit organization creates employment and advancement opportunities for people who are blind or low vision through jobs and training. Some employees work for Beyond Vision or work in jobs the organization creates through its customers, while others build the experience and confidence to move on to other jobs – including one person who is becoming an attorney. For Beyond Vision, any of these outcomes is another step toward increasing the low employment rate for people who are blind or low vision.
For more than 100 years, Beyond Vision has offered manufacturing services to an array of customers, and over time has added assembly and packaging (A&P) and customer care – particularly call center services. Their federal and commercial customers include Briggs & Stratton, Harley-Davidson, Caterpillar, Oshkosh Defense, and GE.
According to Stephen Gould, marketing specialist at Beyond Vision, they are home to one of only two machine shops in the U.S. operated by people who are blind.
“Seeing the work that’s done here and how we’re beating the stereotypes that surround people who are visually impaired is just amazing,” he says.
Giving people jobs, experience, and confidence
Jennifer Wenzel, former talent acquisition coordinator and now a Human Resources generalist at Beyond Vision, emphasizes the organization’s emphasis on opportunity.
“We give people the opportunity for a real job, for competitive pay,” she says. “Sometimes people who have gone blind later in life – or even have been blind for a long time – really need that first chance to break into the workforce. They may have great skills, but they don’t have anything to put on a resume to prove they’re an asset to workplaces.”
According to Jennifer, who is one of the many employees at Beyond Vision who are blind, the organization offers a variety of professional development opportunities and career pathways.
“We want to demonstrate that people can move upward and expand their horizons, and we’re supportive of people gaining those skills and using them in other careers,” she says. “It really instills confidence when people who are both blind and sighted are working together to keep this company growing, moving, and expanding.”
An employee’s perspective
Deb Jacobson connected with Beyond Vision in 2017, after retiring from a career working in factories, administrative positions, and call centers. Born with achromatopsia, Deb has some vision, but experiences light sensitivity and has color blindness and a lack of central vision.
One of her first assignments with Beyond Vision was working in the machine shop, where she engraved numbers on automotive parts.
“I’ve always had an interest in hands-on work because it’s tangible,” says Deb, who is now 72 years old. “And there’s value in being able to say, ‘I did 10 engravings in 15 minutes.’”
Beyond Vision asked her to transfer to the call center, which Deb worried about a bit because of the need to read certain parts of a customer’s script precisely. But her concerns quickly evaporated.
“One of the things I really like about Beyond Vision is that we have accessibility features that allow me to work with my brain instead of fighting the issue of struggling to overcome my lack of sight,” she says. “In the call center, I’m working with a screen magnifier and inverted colors, so that levels the playing field for me.”
Deb is also called back to the machine shop or A&P on occasion, so she still gets to do hands-on work, too – which is part of Beyond Vision’s operating philosophy.
“People do different jobs and learn new skills, and get training if they need it,” Jennifer says. “We don’t want people to get bored, and we want them to have challenges and new opportunities. We often have people training each other, so there’s a lot of peer-mentoring here.”
She also underscores Beyond Vision’s commitment to accessibility. For example, the organization runs supply stores at military bases across the country. Beyond Vision invested in NetSuite to make customer service jobs at the bases accessible, which they weren’t before.
Innovating for clients and people of all visual abilities
At the Beyond Vision machine shop – which is moving to a brand-new facility designed by Chris Downey, a renowned architect who is blind – employees frequently improve processes for Beyond Vision’s clients. For example, employees at the machine shop assemble reflector plates for Harley-Davidson, and their unique perspective on the world yielded a new idea.
“Our engineers designed a custom fixture that’s basically like a puzzle piece,” Stephen explains. “They just place the reflector on the little bracket and it lines up perfectly every time. The process was created here but then Harley-Davidson replicated it. We’ve developed similar solutions for other manufacturers, and it just shows that a different way of thinking can make a huge difference.”
Visit the Beyond Vision website to learn about current job opportunities and more. You can also call 414-778-5800.