The largest blind workforce is here in Alabama—how they’re helping our troops

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Alabama Institute For Deaf And Blind
Alabama Industries for the Blind has workers who are making a big difference for our troops. (Jacob Blankenship / The Bama Buzz)

Did you know every tie worn by a US military soldier was created right here in Alabama? That’s right, our state is home to the largest blind workforce and these workers are helping our American heroes. Keep reading to learn how Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind is creating opportunities for everyone—no matter the disability—and how you can support this work.

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The Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind is a place of opportunity

Alabama Institute For Deaf And Blind
Opening doors for their students. (Jacob Blankenship / The Bama Buzz)

As the world’s most comprehensive education, rehabilitation and service program, Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (AIDB) helps over 36,000 people of all ages with hearing and vision loss every year—plus it’s free for students. AIDB’s different schools and programs include:

The school’s goal is to level the playing field for everyone, so we all can have the same experiences and choices.

Our focus is to work in partnership with those we serve and Alabama’s employers, schools, service organizations and communities to develop an accessible world that is diverse, inclusive and equitable. I think it is a win-win situation for all involved, once the door is open and the community can see the incredible opportunities and partnerships that can be established.”

Dr. John Mascia, President, Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind

Learn how you can support the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind’s work to give equal opportunities to everyone.

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A legacy of helping American heroes

Alabama Industries For The Blind
Making a difference since 1932. (Jacob Blankenship / The Bama Buzz)

Back in 1932, an Alabama School for the Blind (ASB) teacher, Mattie Smith, founded Alabama Industries for the Blind (AIB). With five ASB graduates and some borrowed sewing machines, this team got to work and made potholders, pillowcases and sheets.

“Those items were sold through the Federated Women’s Clubs of Alabama, beginning a journey that has lasted for 90 years and grown into what AIB is today, an award-winning, $30 million dollar organization providing employment and upward career mobility to over 300 team members at its Talladega and Birmingham production facilities and base supply centers on military installations in Alabama and Georgia.”

Dr. John Mascia, President, Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind

During World War II, AIB’s sewing industry had a boom when they were qualified to make pillowcases for the military through the National Industries for the Blind.

Read more about Alabama Industries for the Blind’s story.

Creating work + empowerment

Aib
If you’ve seen a soldier wearing a tie, it was made right here in Alabama. (Jacob Blankenship / The Bama Buzz)

Today, AIB is the largest blind workforce in the US and plays an important role in helping our military. These workers help American heroes by making:

  • ALL of the neckties worn by all of the US military branches
  • Helmet covers
  • Other textiles

The good news: you don’t have to be a graduate of an AIDB program to work at AIB.

“We welcome employees from across Alabama and the nation who are drawn to our ‘in house’ upward mobility program where they can advance from production worker to a member of the AIB management team to various other roles within the AIDB.

However, our focus on personal development does not stop there. We empower the staff at AIB with the tools they need to fulfill their ambitions at AIB and beyond!”

Dr. John Mascia, President, Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind
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How you can support this amazing work

Aidb
Let’s help AIDB continue giving opportunities to their students. (Jacob Blankenship / The Bama Buzz)

AIDB is able to do the amazing work it does through partnerships like the one with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. Are you curious about how you can play a role in AIDB’s work? Look no further because we know how you can donate to help these workers continue making necessary items for our troops. Be sure to check out how you can make a one-time or recurring online donation to support the schools and programs.

Wondering about the other work AIDB does or how to help them as they continue to support their students? Head over to AIDB’s website to get all the details.

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Selah Vetter
Selah Vetter
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