STAN: Let us start with the basics. What is the mission of LC Industries?
JOHN: LC Industries’ sole mission is to provide meaningful employment for people who are blind and/or visually impaired. As one of the nation’s largest employers of the blind, our mission is to offer opportunities, skills and training to the blind and visually impaired (abbreviated BVI) to help them cultivate a job into a rewarding career. This is a critical issue since only 30% of the BVI community is gainfully employed.
STAN: How long has LC Industries been around?
JOHN: Over 80 years, long before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed! Our non-profit was started by a local civic group here in Durham, and since that time, has grown to two distribution centers, four e-commerce websites, six manufacturing facilities and over 35 retail stores on military bases.
STAN: Wow – what is unique about your relationship with the military bases?
JOHN: Having retail stores on the bases saves our military personnel lots of time. They can find exactly what they need close by, without having to go into town to hunt down and find various supplies. In addition, we are known for our excellent quality, which is crucial to supplying our armed services personnel in combat.
STAN: What kind of products are you manufacturing?
JOHN: A wide range and you will see many of them when I take you through the manufacturing plant. Some of the products are specifically for the military, and others are for the public and can be ordered through our e-commerce site: https://www.lcindustries.com/e-commerce/. You will get to see a wide range of products that we make on the tour, including mattresses, file folders, and locks. Not to mention, you will get to see our team assembling medical kits, which is one of our newest and fastest growing businesses.
STAN: I am interested in what percentage of the people working in this facility are blind or visually impaired.
JOHN: Our goal is that every position in our organization is accessible, and could be filled by a person who is blind or visually impaired. Our target is for our manufacturing workforce to consist of at least 75% of employees who are blind or visually impaired. Right now, we are around 78%, exceeding our target.
STAN: And what do you see for LC Industries’ future?
JOHN: This is what I am excited about. We really want to evolve and create jobs that lead to upward mobility for the BVI community, so we are launching a Workforce Innovation Center (WIC). The high-tech and services industries are the fastest growing areas, and we see the WIC playing a pivotal role in providing training to people to fill positions in digital accessibility and contact center services. For example, we are now working with organizations to update their websites, including their career pages, to ensure they are accessible to everyone. By focusing on digital accessibility services, it enables us to remove one of the major barriers that have hindered this community from entering the workforce, which I think is going to be game changing.
STAN: I love that you are looking to the future, especially as the shortage of technical skills continue to grow. Where can people learn more about LC Industries?
JOHN: On our website, https://www.lcindustries.com. You can read more about our history, access our e-commerce site, and see what jobs we currently have available.
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My previous blogs for National Disability Employment Awareness Month:
2014: Bridge II Sports – a cool organization engaging people with disabilities through various sports.
2013: Support via a wonderful organization, Enable America.
And also: A theater organization supporting performers with disabilities, Theater Breaking Through Barriers.