Bosma Enterprises seeks to reduce unemployment of Hoosiers who are blind or visually impaired

Did you know? October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, an annual awareness campaign celebrating the contributions of workers with disabilities and educating about the value of a workforce inclusive of their skills and talents.

This mission is a personal one for Indianapolis-based nonprofit Bosma Enterprises, more than half of whose 208 employees at all levels of the organization are blind or visually impaired. In fact, it is the state’s largest employer of this group of individuals.

Today on Indy Style, James Michaels, Vice President of Programs Services, Bosma Enterprises, explains:

Unfortunately, employment opportunities are few and far between for people who are blind or visually impaired. In Indiana, this group faces 62 percent unemployment. Furthermore, the National Federation of the Blind states that more than 30 percent of U.S. adults who are blind live in poverty. That’s an especially concerning statistic when you consider that by 2030, the rate of blindness is estimated to double along with the country’s aging population.

Right now, there are nearly 160,000 Hoosiers coping with vision loss, and Bosma Enterprises is working tirelessly to help these individuals gain the life skills they need to remain independent and the job skills they need to stay self-sufficient. In addition to the people the organization employs directly, Bosma has also worked to place clients at 21 different companies throughout the state, creating more diverse workforces and changing minds about the abilities of people who are blind.

One such example is Mark Dresen of Indianapolis, who sought rehabilitation services from Bosma after losing his vision as a result of Choroideremia, a rare hereditary eye disease. After completing rehabilitation at Bosma, he now works at Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis, and says the company has been very accommodating and has taken steps to foster his success, such as providing a JAWS (short for Job Access With Speech) screen reader program and welcoming his service dog into the workplace.

The greatest thing that I got from Bosma was my life back. It was hope, and the realization that I could still have anything that I wanted,” Dresen said. “One of their primary focuses is really just to get you ready to get out there and pursue your own efforts at finding a job again.”

This October, Bosma encourages all Hoosiers to consider how they might be able to contribute to this mission, either by volunteering, donating, referring someone to its rehabilitation programs, or making a job available to someone who is blind or visually impaired.

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