Visually Impaired Fight COVID Hands-on

Courtesy photo    David Heath, who has visual impairment, has filled an important role during the pandemic.

At 6:30 a.m. each day, a team of blind and visually impaired employees assemble in a production line at LightHouse Industries (LHI): mixing chemicals, filling bottles, packing pallets and loading trucks. They are supplying the federal government with Skilcraft All Purpose and Glass Cleaner and PURE Bioscience Hard Surface Disinfectant. The disinfectant is on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Orders for the cleaning products and approved disinfectants have been flooding into the San Leandro facility, forcing LHI to consider adding second shifts of blind employees to meet demand.

David Heath, 59, (pictured) has worked at the San Leandro LightHouse Industries Center since 2016. He feels proud to be an essential worker on the frontline, at a time when some might assume blind and visually impaired people would want to isolate themselves and limit contact. 

“It feels great because I am filling a need for others,” he said. “There are lots of jobs I’m not able to do because [employers] think I am a liability. Here I feel appreciated and wanted.”

LightHouse Industries is a social enterprise that directly employs the blind to produce materials for commercial and government orders. These workers are the founding group of what will ultimately be 36 blind employees making new innovative sanitizing compounds. 

More than 80 percent of employees at LightHouse Industries are blind or visually impaired. LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired provides blind skills training, as well as socializing opportunities and employment training for the 40,000 people across the San Francisco Bay Area who are blind or have low vision. 

Headquartered in San Francisco, in July 2020, LHI plans to expand to a brand-new, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Alameda.