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By Chris Murphy, editorial director, Oracle—Sep 17, 2019
At Industries for the Blind and Visually Impaired (IBVI), there is one ultimate measure of success: jobs created.
More than seven million US adults are blind or visually impaired and an estimated 70 percent of them are not employed full-time. IBVI employs people who are blind for a wide range of jobs, from assembly of tool kits for military troops to various customer service and office roles. IBVI is always looking for ways to improve product quality and accuracy around factors such as shipment status and inventory. Unlike most companies, however, IBVI is not looking to cut its labor costs. Its mission is to create opportunities.
“If we don’t employ an additional person, it doesn’t help us,” IBVI chief innovation officer Emmanuel Vouvakis says. “In order for us to scale and grow, we needed a solid and accessible platform.”
IBVI sells products in part under a US government program called AbilityOne, in which government and defense agencies buy products from contractors that create jobs for people with disabilities. IBVI sees opportunities to expand into new markets. It’s also facing new online competition that is starting to sell into its markets.
To meet those challenges, IBVI has moved from a collection of disparate legacy software systems onto the full suite of Oracle Cloud Applications for functions including financials, supply chain, product configurations, human resources, and customer experience. The company chose Oracle Cloud Applications because the integrated platform makes it easier to access its sales and operations data and it is compatible with accessibility tools such as JAWS (text-to-speech) and ZoomText.
In the past, most of the jobs available to the blind community were limited to manufacturing and assembly. Jobs in customer service and finance required the assistance of one sighted person for every four blind employees. Since implementing the new Oracle Cloud Applications system, IBVI has been able to create new independent roles (no sighted assistance required) in customer service, human resources, and financial management. Sandra Teague-Martin, for example, had worked in a real estate office for years until losing most of her vision to glaucoma. She joined IBVI doing assembly work and then was promoted to an office role, where she now uses Oracle Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Cloud to enter and track orders.
“I didn’t think it would be possible to find employment like this where I’m accepted, where I’m equal to people who are sighted,” Teague-Martin says.
Deborah Ambro-Crandell lost her sight at age 16. But this hasn’t stopped her on her quest to become a CEO. Currently, she leads IBVI’s customer success team, managing 12 employees—all team members are blind except one.
“Anything can happen to any of us at any given moment. But every limitation in life comes with a choice. You can let it stop you, or you can fight and overcome it,” says Ambro-Crandell. “It’s incredible what humans can do when faced with a challenge.”
IBVI’s values include creating and growing employment opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired; providing the best, most cost-effective industrial supplies and friendly customer service; and to be the leading voice in educating businesses on how to create, design, and build accessible workplaces for the blind and visually impaired.