Message from the President and CEO Kirk Adams
Our community makes The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc.’s work possible with volunteer efforts, financial gifts, and customer relationships. Together, we create employment for individuals who are blind, Deaf-Blind and blind with other disabilities.
An important partner is National Industries for the Blind (NIB), the nation’s largest employment resource for people who are blind. NIB coordinates efforts between 91 U.S. nonprofit agencies, like the Lighthouse, and the federal government to create and sustain employment.
2013 marks the 75th anniversary of the Wagner-O’Day Act, the federal law that created NIB. It is also the Lighthouse’s 95th anniversary. These milestones led me to reflect on the early days of the Lighthouse and the changes over the years.
The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. began in response to the barriers faced by individuals who are blind, originating as a social club in 1914, and incorporating in 1918. Our first facilities included a small retail shop and a modest manufacturing operation on the Seattle waterfront where we made baskets and brooms, and caned chairs.
In the early 1950s, our strong partnership with The Boeing Company began. We now make thousands of aerospace parts every month. In 1967, Seattle Lighthouse moved to our Rainier Valley building that now occupies more than a full block.
By the 1970s, handicrafts gave way to industrial items like aluminum easels, paper cutters, and U.S. Army canteens, in addition to consistent growth in manufacturing airplane parts. We also began providing specialized Employee and Community Services to people who are blind, including orientation and mobility training with white canes and guide dogs, independent living skills training, technological support, visual and tactile American Sign Language interpreting, job training, and braille literacy.
Seattle Lighthouse has become the nation’s largest employer of individuals who are Deaf-Blind, hiring our first employee who was Deaf-Blind in 1972. Our programs have grown to be nationally renowned models of best practices, with our Annual Deaf-Blind Retreat celebrating its 35th anniversary this August.
The Lighthouse also developed employment services for people who are blind with an additional developmental disability. Now, employees in our Supported Employment Program are integrated throughout our manufacturing operations.
Today, the Lighthouse is one of Washington State’s top 100 manufacturing employers, with approximately 400 employees, providing them with the training and accommodations necessary to excel at their jobs.
We opened our first Base Supply Center in 1999, and today operate six stores in Washington, California, and Nevada. In 2008, we opened another facility, Inland Northwest Lighthouse (INL) in Spokane, which will double in size this year to further expand opportunities to people who are blind. We’ve also developed service businesses, including our Contact Center serving government and commercial clients, and our two Contract Management Service offices in San Diego.
The concern of local volunteers in 1914, combined with the attention of the federal government in the 1930s, resulted in our vibrant and growing organization providing jobs, empowerment, and independence to so many. The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. is proud of its association with National Industries for the Blind, and of your support of our mission.
President and CEO
The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc.