At IBVI, our employees are the lifeblood of our culture. It’s our passionate employees whose drive and commitment keep us moving forward. Behind every IBVI product we make, assemble, deliver or source, is one or many of our dedicated employees whose hard work and positive attitude help create a better and brighter community for the blind and visually impaired. One of IBVI’s most personable and down to earth employees is none other than Lucas Rice, who is the feature of this month’s IBVI employee spotlight.
From Ethiopia to Milwaukee
Lucas Rice is a customer service representative who’s been with IBVI less than a year, and has already proven himself to be a sparkling jewel in IBVI’s crown of employees who are blind and visually impaired, catching the light and glimmering with optimism, care and compassion. Born in Ethiopia, Lucas moved to Georgia just after he turned eight and has lived in Atlanta up until now. While still living in Atlanta, Lucas attended the National Federation for the Blind convention in New Orleans, which is where he first encountered IBVI, catapulting him toward a brand new career. After leaving his position at Kennesaw State working with the outdoor adventures group, he made the move from Atlanta, GA to the greater Milwaukee area in August of 2022 and started his new role working in IBVI’s customer service department in September.
Hearing Lucas’s friendly voice accompanied by his warm laughter, it’s evident that he is, and always has been, a people person. “Half of it is just natural skill, customer service comes easily to me,” said Lucas. “But I genuinely love working with people and helping them solve their problems. From day to day you never know who you’re going to encounter.”
Don’t Take Transportation for Granted
When it comes to what Lucas loves most about working for IBVI, he mentioned just a few of the ways the company helps empower him and other employees with accessible equipment, resources and training. “One thing often overlooked when it comes to blind and visually impaired employees is their transportation. If you don’t have a ride, people sometimes have to spend $20+ on Uber rides to work every day, so the fact that IBVI helps provide transportation to employees that need it is just one small service that goes a long way.”
Another great benefit that Lucas loves about IBVI is their training courses offered through their partnership with Vision Forward. Lucas expressed that just because you don’t have previous experience in a skill or program doesn’t mean you can’t learn it. “If I’m looking to grow into a different role within the company, I can reach out to HR who will help create a training program for whichever software I might need to learn,” said Lucas. “IBVI is full of people that are open and willing to help. When they tell you they’re working on something for you, you know they’re not just plotting to fire you or let you go.”
Making Accommodations, Showing Support
When asked about why he’s passionate about working for IBVI and the values the company stands for, Lucas lamented that more companies need to follow IBVI’s lead in accommodating and uplifting blind employees. “There have been times in my career where I jumped through the hoops of applying, interviewing, accepting and starting a new job, only to be fired or let go because companies can’t (or won’t) make simple accommodations.” Lucas recalled being let go from a customer service job at a phone company after only having worked there for a week. Unlike IBVI, the company didn’t have any accessibility equipment like JAWS, and when Lucas asked for printed versions of a script (since they were harder for him to read on the computer) the company’s ‘solution’ was to let him go.
Saying “Yes” to Inclusivity
Lucas reflected on society as a whole, suggesting that more businesses, organizations and groups need to step up and simply make an effort at accommodating the needs of people who are blind – saying yes instead of no. While he realizes that there can be challenges, as long as there’s an effort from both sides, the seemingly impossible can be achieved. It’s how he became the first blind Jiu-Jitsu student at not one, but two martial arts academies. That’s right, if you run into Lucas on the street or hear his voice on the other end of a customer support line, make sure to ask him if he can teach you some moves in Jiu-Jitsu.
“When I decided I wanted to try Jiu-Jitsu in 2018, I was met with open arms. The instructor never expressed worry that this might be hard, he was just excited to teach me! Sometimes new students would join the class and you could sense the awkwardness, but after a few classes people would adjust. Sometimes it just takes time, exposure and a willingness to try.”