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Out of Sight, Out of Mind? Addressing the Diversity Gap for the Visually Impaired

“Advances in information communication and technology (ICT) have created the possibility of a world where there is equal access to information among people with low vision and the sighted population.” – AEBC, August 2015

In writing, you are generally not supposed to refer to a document that is two years or older. The belief is that any references that go back more than that pre-determined period may no longer accurately reflect the current day facts.

However, when it comes to diversity and the visually impaired, time figuratively stops. In other words, and despite technological advancements, the opportunities in procurement for individuals with vision limitations has not progressed dramatically since the publication of the 2015 position statement.

In today’s article, we will talk about what we as a profession and industry can do to tap into the hidden power of an exceptional group of people.   


Left in the Dark

“Nearly 70% of working-age Americans who are blind are not employed.” – NSITE, A Vision For Talent

We want to stress that this article is not meant to be a callout. In talking with NSITE executive Jonathan Lucus, it is not a question about a failure on the part of American business to take action but to create greater awareness of an untapped pool of talent.

A recent spin-off of the National Industries for the Blind (NIB), NSITE’s goal is to connect “corporate leadership to exceptional, dedicated employees.” The organization does this through an identify, train, place, and support process that mobilizes part of an underutilized workforce that can make tremendous contributions to individual businesses and the overall economy.

Beyond working directly with employers to identify potential candidates, a big part of the NSITE approach to mobilizing their community’s employment opportunities begins with training. Before launching the new organization, the NIB trained 10,000 people. With INSITE, that number has exponentially increased, as have the number of companies looking for talent.

Once a candidate has been placed, NSITE then provides employers with diversity training, including how to work with someone with vision challenges effectively. Through this effort, companies realize an increase in their hiring ROI, explaining why candidates command six-figure salaries in emerging professions such as cybersecurity.

The opportunities for rewarding careers in other sectors, including procurement, are equally promising for both the company and new employees.

In this context, and as Lucus so succinctly puts it, what we do is “connect actual employers with qualified candidates” versus offering a detached “post and pray” job board where it is easy to get lost in a sea of resumes.

Today, there are  thousands of people looking for work and hundreds of companies looking to hire. Our job is to bring them together.


No Boundaries

One such example of how the procurement industry is starting to capitalize on this previously underutilized wealth of talent is Industries for the Blind and Visually Impaired (IBVI).

According to IBVI’s Senior Director of Strategic Sourcing, Jason Harper, the company creates a “workplace with no boundaries” for our employees by “seeing the possibilities” for everyone to thrive as essential contributors.

As a national industrial supplier of office supplies, office space design, furniture, tools, customized kitting, and promotional products, to name a few, IBVI recognizes that diversity is not limited to the familiar areas of gender, race, and age.

While there is no argument that equality and equity in these segments of the population are important, we must create a broader awareness of those exceptional yet underutilized people who are “visually impaired and work-capable.”

By teaming up with Procurement Foundry, we can actively present the potential contributions that these amazing individuals can bring to the procurement and supply chain world through their tremendous energy, commitment, and in many cases, past experiences.

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