A physical disability doesn't have to be a barrier to employment but it can be a challenge to find the right fit.

A place here in East Tennessee dedicated to expanding opportunities for folks who can't see.

The people who work at the plant in Morristown fulfill military contracts for clothing and other items.

The people at the plant are blind or visually impaired.

"In 1981 I was in an automobile accident and I went from 20/20 vision to no vision," Mark Sheridan said. "And that wasn't the worst part. I lost a really good friend in the accident."

He was 19 years old.

He had to re-learn everything. His friends and family helped.

He found out about Lions Volunteer Blind Industries when his mom mentioned it would be a good place to get a job.

"She said it's at Volunteer Blind Industries. And I said mom what factory is going to hire a blind man to make blinds? And she said no no it's not that," he said. "Lo and behold they hired me and I've been here 33 years."

Mark started out making specialty paper towels for the military then trained for sewing different military items and apparel.

"I consider myself jack of all trades and master of none," he said. "Some can do more than others and we have different options that you can do."

That's the beauty of Lions Volunteer Blind Industries. Different jobs for different skill sets.

"That's the whole evaluation process. Then they decide where best to put you. There are some people who could work in every department," Owen Neil said.

He is a public relation specialist at VBI. He lost his sight in a car wreck and had to learn to navigate with a cane just like Mark and many of the people there.

"I had to learn how to take care of myself, to clean my own house, do my own cooking, do my laundry, go out and get a job," he said.

The jobs at VBI are meaningful. The work provides not only a pay check but also dignity.

"We get to make a difference, I mean, we are contributing by making things for the military. We pay taxes. We send our kids to school. We buy houses. We buy groceries. And for me personally I'm doing something that I really feel passionate about and getting pair for it," Owen said.

Mark said, "I have my own house. I have my own boat. I'm independent. I don't have to depend on nobody. That's a blessing there."

It's blessing for the blind and visually impaired and also for those who benefit from their hard work.

Lions Volunteer Blind Industries offers employment in Morristown and Johnson City.

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