The Lighthouse for the Blind Inc., Seattle
social enterprises — organizations that combine a commercial business with a social function such as employment and training for the disabled — are common now, but they weren’t in 1918 when Lighthouse for the Blind was launched. In the early years, Lighthouse made brooms and mops. Today, its 200 manufacturing employees make plastic and metal aerospace parts, using CNC machines outfitted with adaptive controls, including large-print screens and technology to convert instructions and settings to audio output, so the blind and visually impaired can work on them.
Lighthouse has been a Boeing supplier since 1952. It also produces equipment like canteens for the military and office supplies such as easels. The organization has expanded to three manufacturing locations in Seattle, Spokane as well as Summerville, South Carolina. Lighthouse expects to open another location in the next five years and is studying new products and product lines to add. For example, it just began producing a collapsible stretcher for the Army.