Central Florida nonprofit helping the visually impaired navigate Florida’s unemployment system

ORLANDO, Fla. — While the pandemic has brought its share of job loss, one Central Florida enterprise is grateful for its hiring surge.

Lighthouse Works is an organization dedicated to creating job opportunities for the visually impaired.

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Team leader Sophia McCall recently moved into management herself, something she never dreamed possible when she lost her sight four years ago.

“At first it was scary,” McCall says. “I had to learn everything over again.”

Like Sophia, two thirds of the call agents at Lighthouse Works are visually impaired, but that hasn’t kept them from performing a new essential role: helping millions like them use Florida’s reemployment system.

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“Here on premise, it’s all DEO all day long,” Lighthouse President and CEO Kyle Johnson says.

The nonprofit has served the visually impaired community in Central Florida for 45 years.

It became an extension of the Department of Economic Opportunity in 2018, and amid the state’s rampant issues this year, the staff of less than 20 people has quadrupled.

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“Seven out of 10 blind Americans are unemployed in this country,” Johnson says. “We’re making a dent in that statistic here in Central Florida. That feels awesome.”

So far, Lighthouse Works has paid out $4 million in wages and is on pace to keep paying an average of more than $1 million a year.