Beyond Vision

Overcoming the Pandemic

Beyond Vision is a supplier of goods and services to many businesses and organizations that had been deemed essential during the nationwide shutdown. As a result, we were also declared an essential business during the nationwide shutdown. During this time, our organization continued to operate. We were fortunate to be able to continue providing employment to our visually impaired employees, however, there were many challenges and ways our organization and those we serve were and continue to be impacted by COVID-19.

Blindness is very frequently associated with other attendant health issues. One’s blindness is many times a result of some serious health complications. For example, the leading cause of blindness is complications of diabetes which results in Diabetic Retinopathy. People with diabetes do face a higher chance of experiencing serious complications from COVID-19. Many employees at Beyond Vision had to make the difficult decision to stay at home for their own safety. Those who were able to complete their jobs from home were able to do so, however, many of our employees work in our Machin Shop of Assembly & Packaging areas were not able to do so. Rather than laying these individuals off, Beyond Vision kept these at-risk individuals employed and on our payroll, making available hardship time off. Our mission is to employ people who are blind, and we continued to honor this mission during these difficult times.

 

For our visually impaired direct labor employees who were still able and willing to come into work during the shutdown period, Beyond Vision offered a $2 /hour pay increase. So many of our employees who had the option to stay at home, were determined to come into work. We are incredibly proud of the determination of these individuals. It highlighted just how much the jobs mean to our employees. We truly have the most determined workforce. The actions of our employees is validation to the importance of our mission.

The pandemic certainly resulted in supply chain, logistic, and workload issues. As you know, Beyond Vision implements a social enterprise model to achieve our mission. We use business principles to accomplish a social mission. As such, we provide our customers with quality goods and services to expand our business, and in turn create jobs for people who are blind.  Many of our valued customers, such as Briggs & Stratton, Harley Davidson, Oshkosh Defense, and many others, were heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Supply chain issues and work order flows were all disrupted during this pandemic. This led to temporary revenue challenges. It is important to note, Beyond Vision has not laid off any employees during the pandemic.

For those who are able, a focus is being made on the ability to work from home. One of our business units which employs a significant number of blind employees is our Customer Care Center. We make and receive calls for customers like Fresh Revenues, Harley Davidson, and State of WI unclaimed Property, and many more. We have even began a call program for the state of WI Unemployment office as a result in the surge in demand during the pandemic. We have made an investment into technology enabling these employees to work from home. This includes purchase of adaptive technology, as well as additional IT support. We believe this is the smart thing to do for the safety of our employees.

Safety has always been a primary focus at Beyond Vision. In our front offices, roughly 50% of our employees are blind or visually impaired. In our Assembly & Packaging and Machine Shop, more than 90% of our employees are blind. This means we must take significant steps to ensure the safety of all our employees. In the era of COVID-19, this brings about a whole new set of challenges. Social distancing and avoiding touching surfaces in public spaces is much more difficult for individuals who are blind who mainly rely on communication and touch to interact with the world. We rely on public transit and rideshares as a primary mode of transportation. Keeping 6 feet of distance and not touching others is also a challenge. Extra effort to keep our facilities clean and safe have been made. We hired a more thorough cleaning service to clean daily, installed hand sanitizer stations throughout our facilities, provide masks to all employees, implemented temperature checks of employees daily, created physical dividers in common areas and much more. Every effort is being taken to ensure safety of all employees.

Even though we do operate using business principles, at our core we are a nonprofit organization who exists to create employment opportunities for people who are blind. While unemployment rates during COVID have soared, people who are blind had already faced a 70% unemployment rate before the pandemic. The increased demand for jobs makes our mission even more important than ever.

Beyond Vision hosts one major fundraising event annually. It is called the “Shot in the Dark.” It is a golf tournament played in the dark of night using glow in the dark golf balls and lighting up the course with glow sticks. Over the years, the event has grown larger and larger. It has become an essential source of funding for our mission. Funding that provides our blind employees with essential job skills training and adaptive equipment. Due to the pandemic, we were forced to cancel the event this year. We have also seen a drop in funding received from our philanthropic supporters during the pandemic. Philanthropic support is the oil that keeps our machine running. Although our employees are incredibly dedicated, hardworking, skilled, and simply put, amazing; without the support of our philanthropic partners we would not be able to do what we do. Your support is what keeps our mission alive.

 

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