Alphapointe Association for the Blind

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Alphapointe Association for the Blind
City & State:
Kansas CityKansas, 
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

Empowering people with vision loss to maximize their independence.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

The unemployment rate for people who are blind and have other severe disabilities is 70%...even when times are good and we are not in a recession! Since 1911, Alphapointe Association for the Blind has been providing education, rehabilitation, job placement and jobs for people who are blind and visually impaired. Alphapointe is the largest employer of people who are blind and visually impaired in the State of Missouri. With a consistent focus on the dignity and independence that employment brings, Alphapointe generates income and independence for the visually impaired through the revenue generated from the operation of a technology-enhanced manufacturing plant. We employ nearly 100 people who are blind and visually impaired in our manufacturing operations. Alphapointe produces 50 million prescription and specimen bottles a year for the federal government, primarily to the Veteran's Hospitals and the Department of Defense. Alphapointe also produces office products and writing instruments, producing 11 million pens a year for the US government.

Over the years, Alphapointe Association for the Blind has received donations of a number of Microsoft products through TechSoup. One such product was the Visual FoxPro programming environment. This product has allowed the IT staff at Alphapointe, led by the Chief Information Officer who is legally blind himself, the ability to create a number of custom applications in house. Examples include applications that allow for the collection of inventory information, the creation of special reports and the integration of dissimilar databases, to name just a few. The true beauty of the Microsoft products is in the synergistic effect that can be realized by bundling a number of the Microsoft technologies. Using Visual FoxPro in conjunction with Microsoft Speech Application Programming Interface (a product that Microsoft offers free of charge to everyone), the Alphapointe IT department has been able to create applications that talk. This technology has created opportunities for Alphapointe’s employees who are blind that were previously not available to them. One such example is a newly created application that uses voice prompts to guide blind employees through the creation of production labels. With the release of the Windows Mobile 6.1 operating system, audio can now be delivered over a Remote Desktop connection to hand held devices. Combining the Visual FoxPro programming environment with the Speech Application Programming Interface (SAPI) and the new audio-enabled Remote Desktop client, Alphapointe’s IT department has already begun work on a voice guided order picking system which will allow blind employees to maneuver through the warehouse and pick orders for shipment.

Microsoft's technology has enabled Alphapointe to remain current in an ever-changing technology environment and do what we do best- provide employment opportunities for people who are blind and visually impaired. By utilizing current technology and combining applications, Microsoft allows us to create more jobs for people who are blind; jobs that would otherwise have to be performed by people who have sight. These technologies are allowing us to transform the way we do business and have a greater impact on people who are blind and visually imparied. Thanks to these programs, many of which we have obtained free of charge through Tech Soup, and the clever combining of technologies that allow speech, we will continue to develop job opportunities for people who are blind and visually impaired, and strive to make a dent in the 70% unemployment rate of people who are blind and have other disabilities.

Submission Category
Transformations to Maximize Impact