Helen Bader Foundation & Beyond Vision

Tools

by Jennifer Tomazic

MILWAUKEE -- There's a lot to be assembled and packaged at Beyond Vision and Frenchie Randolph can handle it.

She works at the on-the-job training work site in Milwaukee. And being visually impaired, Randolph is in the majority: 30 out of 40 workers have a visual impairment.

"You're working around other people who understand what you're going through in life: you're disabled. We all share something in common," said Randolph.

She is trained in more than six areas in the company that does work for bigger companies like Briggs and Stratton and Harley Davidson. Because most employees are visually impaired, the equipment is specialized. The CNC machine equipment talks to the workers and so do the computers in the call center.

"I like it. I enjoy it," said Randolph. "It makes me feel like I matter somewhere in life."

Beyond Vision, formerly Wiscraft, is a non-profit that provides opportunities for sustainable employment to individuals who are blind. In the U.S., nearly 70% of visually impaired people are unemployed. Beyond Vision is looking to change that statistic in Milwaukee.

"We understand the special needs of people who are visually impaired and that provides a level of comfort," said CEO Jim Kerlin.

Beyond Vision is thriving thanks to the Helen Bader Foundation. It recently awarded the non-profit a grant for workforce development. It will help Beyond Vision train even more people. Kerlin says a grant last year helped them start up the call center.

"We want to make sure we don't leave anybody out," said Jerry Roberts with the Helen Bader Foundation. "Whether you're a veteran, or whether you're a mature worker, or whether you have some kind of physical disability, like vision loss, we want to make sure everybody has access."

The Helen Bader Foundation looks for organizations that are creating more jobs in the community for populations that struggle to find them. It has given out $200 million dollars in grants since its inception.

"There's something to be said about earning a paycheck. What it does for their self esteem, what it does for their families and what it does for the community," said Roberts.

"Working helps you feel productive in society. It may help you feel like you belong somewhere," said Randolph.

For more information on the Helen Bader Foundation log onto http://www.hbf.org/

For more information on Beyond Vision, log onto http://www.beyond-vision.org/

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