Base supply center creates opportunities

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Photo by Senior Airman DEVANTE WILLIAMS

With a limited number of jobs available in the U.S., it can be difficult for people to find employment. There is an added challenge to overcome for people with disabilities.

Since 1997, the Luke Air Force Base Supply Center has employed people with disabilities. The Arizona Industries for the Blind employs workers whose tasks range from stocking shelves, inventory tracking, market research and providing Airmen the necessary items needed for a deployment. The AIB operates three BSCs, one at Luke, one at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson and one at Yuma Marine Corps Air Station.

The BSC is a part of the AbilityOne program, which helps more than 48,000 Americans who are blind or have other disabilities. The program also provides a wide range of employment opportunities to those who face the highest barriers to achieving competitive employment on their own.

“About 75 percent of the workforce is blind or visually impaired,” said April Lange, Base Services unit manager. “Half of the employees who work here are legally blind.”

The employees at BSC work diligently and are a helping hand to anyone who requires service.

“Most people who walk through the doors don’t even know the employees are blind until they look at the monitor and see that the cursor is magnified,” said Bernard Richardson, BSC store manager. “Some have a closed caption television system which magnifies the image on the screen while others have hand-held magnifiers or glasses that are custom made for the person.”

BSC employees are trained to accomplish warehousing, merchandising and housekeeping duties, in addition to operating computerized cash registers and providing customer assistance.

“We support the wing by providing equipment and supplies that are needed,” Richardson said.

From deployment gear to janitorial equipment, the BSC provides for nearly any state or federal agency’s needs.

“Our store plays an all-important role in the day-to-day operations at Luke and the greater Phoenix metro area,” Lange said. “The store provides a wide array of products to service members at Luke.”

In addition to meeting base needs, the BSC meets needs for its employees.

“There are approximately 70,000 blind unemployed individuals in the U.S.,” Lange said. “Purchasing through the BSC creates employment for individuals.”

The BSC provides quality service and continues to pave the way for its employees.

“We are proud of our honored role of supplying America’s warfighters with their mission needs,” Lange said. “With the Base Supply Centers, we can support the mission while creating and sustaining work for blind members.”