Disabled Workforce Finds New Hope in Robotics Jobs

January 31, 2012

Robotics not only promotes job growth through sustaining industry; it creates jobs for disadvantaged populations. The Lighthouse for the Blind, an AS9100- and ISO 2001:9000-certified manufacturer, provides jobs for over 200 visually impaired workers, in every part of the company, from the shop floor to management.

Automation Empowers Disabled Workforce

By Wayne Riley, Assembly Magazine

A nonprofit organization, the Lighthouse has been providing machine shop services for more than 60 years. It employs more than 230 blind or deaf-blind workers—80 percent of its workforce—including 70 machinists who are blind or deaf-blind. Each month, these employees create more than 5,500 unique parts at a total volume of 50,000 pieces for Boeing and other aerospace companies with an acceptance rate of more than 99.96 percent.

The workforce at Lighthouse turns out a wide variety of parts and equipment, including aerospace components, specialty tools, office products, hydration packs, bulletin boards, mops and canteens.

Workers do their jobs with help of sophisticated assistive technologies, including large-print keyboards, computer screen-reading software known as JAWS (Job Access With Speech), and digital calipers paired with a voice output device that speaks the measurement on the readout.

With these aids, blind and deaf-blind personnel can operate the most up-to-date equipment for producing aircraft parts and other products with the same skill as sighted individuals.

We’re proud that several RIA members are partners with Lighthouse, including robot supplier FANUC Robotics America Corp., integrator PRE-TEC, and Boeing. What other ways do you see robotics making the workplace more accessible?