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WKLH Highlights Blind Employment at IBVI

Many people have just begun to learn about the work we do at IBVI. And a large part of that has been coming from IBVI CAN, a campaign that highlights our extraordinary employees and shines a light on blind employment.

As a part of the campaign, WKLH Mornings with Dave, Dorene, and Gino came out for their Workforce Tour, which featured three interviews with several of our employees who talked about the campaign, upward mobility, and careers for the blind and visually impaired community.

The morning hosts kicked off the morning with our Chief Innovation Officer, Emmanuel Vouvakis, and Emily Merced, a machine operator at the West Allis facility..

“We’re in the people business. What we do is employ people who are blind and visually impaired and provide opportunities and upward mobility—that’s our goal,” Emmanuel explained.

One of the questions Gino asked Emily was what working at IBVI means to her as someone who is visually impaired.

“It means an opportunity for life—I never thought that I was going to have this chance to just work normally like anybody else because I am visually impaired. For me, I’m telling you it means everything to have this job and this opportunity.”

IBVI currently employs around 265 people, with almost 140 being individuals who are blind or visually impaired. But as WKLH moved into the second interview, listeners learned that these jobs are not just busywork.

“If you put people in a box, you identify limitations. What we try to do is identify the opportunities for growth,” Emmanuel told WKLH.

This growth includes ensuring IBVI has the latest accessibility technology and software that will create more opportunities for those who are not sighted. Currently, the entire customer service staff at IBVI is blind or visually impaired, and a lot of these folks got there through upward mobility. The sense of community is also a big plus for those looking to start a career here.

“It’s a good thing to come every day—you look forward to coming to work, and not only is it a paycheck, but you make some really good friends, and it’s a good time,” said Jeff Spantikow, a long-time IBVI employee and WKLH listener.

Jeff who has been with IBVI for nearly 20 years is currently working toward moving into an office role by taking training courses in our CLEAR Center, which is equipped with accessible computer workstations that help employees better their knowledge and skill sets so they can ready themselves for other employment opportunities and career growth.  CLEAR stands for the Chuck Lange Educational Advancement Resource, part of the legacy that past CEO Chuck Lange left when he retired in 2015.

The last segment of the show featured Customer Service Operations Manager Danielle McCann and Account and E-Commerce Specialist Alison Fortney, who both work in customer service at IBVI. When asked by the hosts what their careers mean to them, they both gave answers that gave listeners a glimpse into how passionate they are about what they do.

“It means that I can be a productive member of society. I think that there’s the misconception that people with disabilities are someone to be pitied or to be given charity. Having a job, I pay taxes and make my own way in the world, and I think that’s the main thing that this job has afforded me,” Danielle told Dave, Dorene, and Gino.

While Alison agreed with these same sentiments, she also talked about the greater sense of community her career allows her.

“It means community for me; it also means standing up for the rights of people who are blind and visually impaired. Every year there’s a public policy day in Washington D.C. on Capitol Hill, and last year I had the privilege of being able to attend. What we do is go around to the different legislators in our state and tell them why blind employment matters—part of our job is to make them aware and get assistance from them to help create more jobs for the community.”

To learn more about IBVI and our employees, listen to the full interviews with WKLH here:

Interview 1

Read Full Transcript of Interview 1

Interview 2

Read Full Transcript of Interview 2

Interview 3

Read Full Transcript of Interview 3


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