Beyond Vision

Wisconsin Business Voice Spring 2019 Accessible Text Version

Small Business Spotlight

Company Profile
Company Name: Beyond Vision
CEO: Jim Kerlin
Number of Employees: 105

What is Beyond Vision?

Beyond Vision, a 501(c)3 social enterprise, was founded in 1903 with the mission of providing employment opportunities to people who are legally blind. Beyond Vision continues to enrich the lives of Americans who are blind through the dignity of work valued by customers and the community with services that include machining, customer care, assembly, packaging, 508 compliance assessment and business supplies. Currently, 51 percent of Beyond Vision’s employees are blind.

Please give us some background on Beyond Vision and your role in it.

Beyond Vision has created a fully inclusive work environment where people who are blind and sighted work side-by-side earning market competitive wages and benefits. This goes from the production floor all the way to senior leadership. Nothing like the sheltered workshops of the past.

As a business development professional, I take great pride not only in the services that I offer, but also in my opportunity to mentor my co-workers who are blind into becoming part of the sales process.  This includes keeping a focus on our customers and making sure we are giving them the highest level of service. I offer solutions for customer needs every day.

What policies or obstacles have proven to be a challenge for business at Beyond Vision?

Our greatest obstacle is getting potential customers over the hurdle of understanding that people who are blind are completely able to work. In the Machine Shop, we are deeply rooted in engineering-based solutions. Work stations are designed using lean manufacturing principles that include poka-yoke “mistake-proof” processes, continuous processes, and 5S.  All of this makes these jobs accessible to people who are blind.

Adaptive technology is used in all our services. We have talking CNCs, micrometers, label readers, weight scales, and computers. Employees in the Customer Care Center use screen reader software to navigate through websites and programs. For those with low vision, monitors are larger with tools to enlarge text. Too many people don’t realize how accessible technology has made even more job options available.

What future goals do you have for Beyond Vision (short and/or long term)

I am always looking to grow the machine shop opportunities so that we can employ more people who are blind in manufacturing. Right now, I want to continue expanding our customer base. Longer term, we are working on moving to a new facility and creating an Ability Center. A place where people with vision loss can access multiple services including eye care, education, training and employment.

Fun fact –

Our machine shop was started in 1958. It is one of only two machine shops run with employees who are blind in the United States.

There is a 70% unemployment rate among people who are blind.

Beyond Vision is a fully self-funded social enterprise that does not operate on any government funding.