Local workers with visual impairments go extra mile during pandemic

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — While we’ve all had to find new ways to fulfill work obligations during the era of social distancing, for essential workers at one metro agency, it’s created an unusual degree of difficulty.

But the employees at Kansas City’s Alphapointe have happily answered the call.

“Alphapointe is one of the largest employers of people who are blind in the country,” said Clay Berry with Alphapointe. “So we have over 140 people that work here on this campus who are visually impaired.”

The nonprofit also services 2,000 local people with vision loss every year. Alphapointe has several lucrative government contracts to make everything from prescription pill bottles to pens for the Department of Defense.

During the quarantine, about a quarter of Alphapointe’s employees are working from home.

“So we have more demand for our products, like prescription pill bottles and caps that we do for veterans,” said Scott Thornhill, senior manager of public policy for Alphapointe. “So we have more demand being put out by fewer employees.”

Thornhill said some of the quarantine adjustments many have made recently, like using Zoom video conferencing for work meetings and keeping 6 feet of distance from others, can be a real challenge for those with vision loss.

“And then when you get in a store, typically in the past, you may have someone from the store who assisted you, and now they can’t,” Thornhill said.

But despite the added layer of obstacles, Thornhill couldn’t be more proud of the employees at Alphapointe who have put in long hours and worked weekends to meet the supply chain demands during the pandemic.

The agency’s plastics division has worked 28 days straight.

“Blind folks are still going to work,” Thornhill said. “Doing their thing and doing our part to pull things through.”

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