Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
In talking with people about The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc., we find some common questions cropping up. Here are a few of the more frequent ones:
When did the Lighthouse begin operating?
How many people with visual impairments do you employ?
How many blind people are there in the United States?
What kind of jobs do employees who are blind do at the Lighthouse?
Does the Lighthouse have a machine shop?
What machining and fabrication services does the Lighthouse offer?
How can a blind machinist make parts for airplanes?
How do I get more information about your machining and fabrication capabilities?
How much do Lighthouse employees earn?
What programs do you offer?
How are you funded?
Why is the unemployment rate for blind people so high?
Do you ever sell your products commercially?
How can I find out more about The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc.?
A: The Lighthouse traces its roots back to 1910 and the formation of a social club called Seattle Association of the Blind. The organization incorporated in 1918, focusing on creating employment opportunities for blind people in the Seattle area. For more Lighthouse history, click here.
A: Out of the 400 people currently employed at the Seattle Lighthouse approximately 240 are blind, Deaf-Blind, or blind with other disabilities according to recent numbers. Of approximately 240 employees with visual disabilities, 40 are Deaf-Blind and 25 are blind or Deaf-Blind with a developmental disability.
A: Legal blindness in the U.S. is defined as either having vision that cannot be corrected beyond 20/200 in the better eye or having a visual field restricted to 20 degrees or less in the better eye. Under this definition, experts estimate that approximately 1.3 million blind people live in the United States, with over 20 million additional Americans reporting significant vision loss. (source: National Center for Health Statistics 2006).
A: People who are blind and DeafBlind fill a wide range of positions at the Lighthouse, including machinists and machine set-ups, production workers, computer instructors, information technology specialists, web programmers, accountants, receptionists, customer service representatives, administrative assistants, and management staff. Our President and CEO, Kirk Adams, is fully blind.
A:Yes, The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. has operated a machine shop for nearly 60 years, having made aircraft parts for The Boeing Company since 1951.
Today, the Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. is an AS9100- and ISO 2001:9000-certified manufacturer that employs more than 70 machinists who are blind and DeafBlind. A participant in the AbilityOne program, we are associated with the National Industries for the Blind.
Our list of customers includes the Federal government’s Defense Logistics Agency and various commercial firms, such as The Boeing Company, Triumph Composite Systems, Inc., and BAE Systems.
“Your willingness to go the extra mile to reach out and give that extra level of customer service — and to also make suggestions for manufacturing improvements and efficiencies that benefit us both — is greatly appreciated.” — James Patterson, Triumph Composite Systems, Inc.
A:The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. provides its customers with advanced, one-stop shop machining and fabrication services. Because of the range of technologies we utilize, we’re able to deliver high-quality solutions in low or high volumes.
- Conventional and CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) Machining
- Injection molding
- Radio frequency sealing and welding
- Hydroform manufacturing
- Sub and final assembly
- Water-jet cutting
- Conventional and CNC shearing
- Metal fabrication and riveting
- Non-metallic machining
- Conventional and CNC turning
A: By utilizing adaptive technology, such as computer screen-reading software (e.g., ZoomText, JAWS (Job Access With Speech)), voicing calipers, large-print keyboards, blind and DeafBlind machinists can operate CNC (computer numeric controlled) machinery to create aircraft parts just as easily as sighted machinists.
It is because of this equipment that our machinists create more than 5,000 unique parts, and 45,000 individual part pieces per month (540,000 per year) for The Boeing Company each year with an acceptance rate of more than 99.9%.
Acceptance Ratings (January 2010)
- Aerospace: 99.96%
- Non-Aerospace: 99.78%
Customer Report Card (December 2009)
- Boeing: 99.97%
A: For more information on the machining and fabrication services offered by The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc., visit our manufacturing page, download our capabilities brochure, or contact us using the information below.
The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc.
2501 S. Plum Street Seattle, WA 98144
Phone: (206) 322-4200
A: The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. pays a competitive wage based on our annual survey of pay rates throughout the Puget Sound for similar jobs. Each individual at the Lighthouse earns a comparable rate to what someone in the same position earns at another company or nonprofit.
Our group-supported employees, who are blind or DeafBlind with developmental disabilities, receive a piece-rate wage based on the prevailing wage paid in Seattle for entry-level assembly jobs.
All Lighthouse employees receive a full benefits package including medical and dental coverage, life insurance, paid sick and vacation leave, and a 403b plan.
A: In addition to offering employment opportunities, we also offer Orientation and Mobility (O & M) Training, Computer Training Program for blind adults, braille instruction, and a comprehensive DeafBlind Program.
We have three Orientation and Mobility Specialists serving the needs of blind and DeafBlind people. Individualized trainings include such skills as white-cane use, route planning, bus and other transit travel, and supplementary guide dog training. O & M Specialists also provide blind and DeafBlind people with bus kits and other travel aids.
Our Housing Support Program supports blind and DeafBlind individuals in locating suitable, affordable housing. Our Computer Training Program for blind adults focuses on providing students with computer and assistive technology skills for upward mobility and increased independence.
Our nationally acclaimed DeafBlind program includes a completely accessible Annual Retreat for DeafBlind people in Seabeck, Washington on Hood Canal. DeafBlind Community Classes also offer a completely accessible experience for Deaf-Blind people throughout the academic year. Our DeafBlind Technology Training Center is a unique program providing one-on-one computer instruction to DeafBlind people. We also offer Independent Living Classes for people who are DeafBlind.
A: The majority of our operations are self-funded through manufacturing and sales of products to customers including the Boeing Company and the federal government. However, the Lighthouse bears significant costs that other manufacturers do not: three in-house sign language interpreters, expensive braille computer equipment, and other assistive technologies. In addition, the Lighthouse has programs and support services for the larger blind and DeafBlind community. Therefore, remaining funding must come from federal and local governments as well as support from the broader community.
Community support includes financial contribution from local corporations, foundations, service organizations, and individuals. This additional funding is critical to preserving and expanding the existing programs and creating new opportunities for the people we serve.
All community support for Lighthouse programs is channeled through the Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind Foundation, whose sole purpose is to gather community support for fulfillment of our mission. For information about how you can support the Lighthouse, click here.
A: There are a number of factors in the national 70% unemployment rate for blind adults. Many employers and members of the public are unaware of the assistive technology available to blind and DeafBlind people that enable them to do their jobs. In addition, the lack of visibility of blind and DeafBlind people in society contributes to misconceptions and bias towards people with visual disabilities.
A: Our product lines are made specifically for the federal government and commercial contractors. Some of our federal products may be purchased by private individuals, though many items are priced differently for private individuals versus government agencies.
A: Coming to Seattle Lighthouse in person for a tour is the best way. To receive a tour schedule, contact Development Assistant Kelly Wakefield at 206-436-2185 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are unable to visit, ask Kelly to send you a copy of our free video. And as always, make sure to read Horizons when it hits your mailbox every three months. If you would like to join our e-Newsletter list, click here.