Local nonprofit IFB Solutions was honored with the 2019 Employment Growth Award for its efforts to increase employment retention, growth and upward mobility for people who are blind. This is the 14th award for IFB Solutions, which is presented by National Industries for the Blind (NIB) to recognize agencies who are increasing employment and economic opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired.
During its fiscal year 2019, IFB Solutions added nearly 42,000 hours of employment and hired almost 100 people who are blind. Deemed an essential business by the Dept. of Defense, the nonprofit kept most of its operations running even as the pandemic continued. IFB Solutions also earned new business by producing masks for the U.S. Air Force and supported hundreds of employees who could not work through its innovative People First Fund. Across its three locations in Winston-Salem, N.C., Asheville, N.C., and Little Rock, Ark., IFB Solutions employs nearly 500 people who are blind or visually impaired, making it the largest employer of people who are blind or visually impaired in the country.
“These jobs are truly changing the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired,” said David Horton, IFB Solutions President and CEO. “Many of our almost 100 new hires were individuals who relocated to Winston-Salem because they could not find jobs in their own communities. And for nearly one-third of our total workforce, IFB is their first job opportunity.”
The organization’s growth also afforded them the opportunity to invest time and money into the next generation of America’s workforce. The IFB Solutions Student Enrichment Program (S.E.E.) continues to serve children who are blind or visually impaired through after-school programs and summer camps.
Many of these programs are now delivered in new formats so the children don’t miss out on important opportunities to develop independent living, orientation & mobility and socialization skills.
“I can’t wait to see what the next generation will do—who knows, maybe one of these children will sit in my seat someday,” said Horton.
According to NIB, 70 percent of working-age adults who are blind are not employed. The success of agencies like IFB Solutions in creating and sustaining employment for people who are blind is key to changing this statistic.
“IFB Solutions is doing an outstanding job of creating U.S.-based career opportunities for people who are blind,” said NIB President and CEO Kevin Lynch. “This is a great example of the unlimited capabilities of people who are blind working across the country.”
IFB Solutions’ local footprint in Winston-Salem includes large-scale manufacturing operations, a comprehensive optical lab, Community Low Vision Center and Tracy’s Little Red Schoolhouse which houses its S.E.E. programs for children in grades K-12.
“Our mission is to provide opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired in need of training, employment and services,” said Horton. “Everything we do is guided by our belief that all people who are blind or visually impaired have the right to succeed in every area of life.”