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Emily M. looking at the camera with an IBVI hat on
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Emily Can: A Picture of Perseverance

In 2017, Emily’s life changed.

“Hurricane Maria was about three years ago,” Emily, one of the most talented machinists on the IBVI factory floor, said. “It was a huge hurricane. It was horrible—that destroyed Puerto Rico totally.”

Emily’s journey to Milwaukee from Puerto Rico was difficult, but it revealed her true strength along the way. Left homeless for 50 days after her family’s house was destroyed, Emily survived Hurricane Maria and overcame its aftermath through perseverance and the support of those around her.

“There were people everywhere, giving people food,” she said, reflecting on moments she remembered from the incident. “You could see the military giving people water. And the good thing about that is that everybody came together.”

But even before this tragedy struck in Puerto Rico, Emily was no stranger to adversity. Emily is visually impaired because of a condition called hemianopia—which causes a loss of vision in half her visual field—but she doesn’t let it limit what she can accomplish.

“Well, I can see pretty good. I just have some problems seeing from far away. I see blurry, but from up close, I see really good.”

Positive in all things, moving to Milwaukee was a huge change for Emily—in every aspect of her life. Different weather. Different language. Different everything. And to find success and independence here, she had to find a way to make a living.. With help from her aunt, she found out about job opportunities at IBVI.

“So I came with the American dream, to find a job and be independent,” she said. “And I was told about two places in Milwaukee that help with vision-impaired people. And it’s surprising ‘cause not a lot of people know about it.”

That’s how Emily found IBVI and became one of our best machinists. Initially hired as a hand assembler, she pushes herself to learn new things—and now she’s discovered both a career and a source of confidence. She says she’s now financially independent which is something she didn’t think was possible due to her visual impairment.

“A lot of people say that by the fact that I have an eye condition, that doesn’t make me normal,” she says.. “I’m a regular person like anybody, but I have to work a little harder for my stuff. Coming to work is just having the opportunity to live like anybody else.”

She’s overcome obstacles to achieve her full potential at a job she describes as a “wonderful place that permits vision impaired and blind people to have a job like anybody else.”

“Because usually I tell people I run machines and they’re like, ‘What? Why do you run a machine?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, I’m a machine operator.’” And Emily is one of the best. To gain new skills and confidence, she took a chance with us—and here at IBVI, we’re beyond thankful to have such a incredible person working alongside us. She’s an example of the best of us, taking on challenges and inspiring everybody around her.

“You can get anywhere you want,” she said. “But there’s always a lot of people that are going to help, there are opportunities everywhere. Just try to make the best of it, because you will have a future.”


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