Kits made by local workers with disabilities being used by U.S. Army to make temporary COVID-19 treatment facilities

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MENOMONEE FALLS, Wis. (CBS 58)- A local nonprofit with a mission to provide jobs for people who are blind and visually impaired, was recognized by the U.S. Army for supplying them with construction kits.

The kits are now being used by the New York National Guard to build emergency facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

People who are blind or visually impaired have a greater than 70 percent unemployment rate nationwide, but the ‘Industries For the Blind and Visually Impaired’ (IBVI) is trying to change that.

“We have about 260 people total employed, and more than half of those people are either blind or visually impaired. Some have multi-disabilities, said CJ Lange, President and CEO of IBVI.

IBVI makes kits, and each kit is filled with virtually every tool needed to construct a building. The U.S. Army uses them around the world.

“So we have everything in these kits, down to the smallest screwdriver bit, up to cement mixers and scaffolding,” says Pat Crain, Chief Operating Officer of IBVI.

“They’re used typically for overseas operations or maintenance, whether that’s needed during wartime or you know, just bases around the globe,” said Lange.

On Thursday, IBVI received a letter from a U.S. Army Command thanking them for the kits.

IBVI says they’re being used in New York to build temporary facilities where there are not enough hospitals and beds to take care of COVID-19 patients.

“Some of our employees can’t serve in the military because of their blindness, however they  do a very critical role,” adds Lange.

“They know it’s important work that they’re doing, they’re very proud to do it and we’re very glad to be providing that service for the U.S. Army,” said Crain.

IBVI has three locations in the greater Milwaukee area, including Menomonee Falls and West Allis.

In the case Wisconsin needs some kits, the company says they’re ready.

“It is possible that they could also be used in Wisconsin,” adds Lange. “But really probably it’s going to be where the most need is first, and I’m not surprised that it’s New York.”

Ongoing contracts with the U.S. Army make IBVI an essential business.

For now IBVI is following social distancing guidelines and have an on-site doctor, but say their employees can’t be more proud in helping America fight the battle against COVID-19.

“The people that are blind and visually impaired feel very close to this, and we’re very excited to know that they’re doing their part to serve their country as well,” said Lange.

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