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November 14th, 2013

BISM Utilizes NIB Rehabilitation Engineering, Teams Up With Company to Make Machine Blind Accessible

 By Rob Ennamorato, Communications Specialist, BISM

Blind Industries and Services of Maryland’s (BISM) manufacturing division recently took a proactive role in converting sighted positions to blind positions. With financial and engineering assistance from National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and Exton, PA’s All-Fill Inc., BISM was able to successfully complete the conversion of a Soap Powder Line Filling Machine into a fully blind accessible machine.

 The project got underway when BISM applied for and received NIB’s Compensation and Productivity Improvement Grant in 2012, which was created to help NIB associated agencies to develop, implement and measure the success of specific projects to improve employee productivity of employees who are blind.

 Once NIB’s engineers, Cas Usiatynski and Mike Ryan, made recommendations regarding the conversion, BISM and All-Fill teamed up and got to work on altering the Soap Powder weigh filling station. An automatic hopper feeder was added, which lets the blind employee know when the hopper is low by way of a light and audio message; All-Fill added talking software to indicate prompts, warnings and the machine operations; the computer screen was modified to be touchscreen; text was displayed in large print; and warning display sensors were added to indicate when the pour was overweight or underweight. All of these modifications insured the quality of work and productivity levels were met while enhancing the employment opportunities of BISM associates who are blind.

 “I had toured BISM’s Baltimore operations and that inspired me to come up with different things that would help low vision employees,” said All-Fill Engineering VP Ha Dinh. “We frequently do customized machines, but we rarely develop sound prompts for the machines. This was definitely a unique collaboration and we learned a lot.”

BISM Production Supervisor Michael Peery was involved throughout the entire process and played a key role in implementing the machine on the production floor at BISM.

“Working with All-Fill has been a great. When I contacted All-Fill and told them what we wanted to do with the soap powder filling machine, they were very interested and eager to help,” Peery said. “The people at All-Fill have made the machine very blind friendly and have been willing to help in any way to modify other equipment at BISM for blind employees.”

The cost of the modifications and upgrades to the Soap Powder line filling machine were approximately $40,000 (which also included onsite training by All-Fill), with 80% paid by the NIB grant and the reminder paid for by BISM.

 The project team included employees from BISM, NIB, and All-Fill contributing in all aspects of the project to convert jobs that were once considered sighted-only jobs. BISM currently has blind employees operating the Soap Powder Line Filling Machine exclusively, and is excited about the possibilities of converting more sighted manufacturing jobs into blind accessible jobs.

“It was a great team effort and is a nice example of the positive things we can do together to promote employment opportunities for people who are blind,” stated Usiatynski.

 About Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM)

Established by the Maryland General Assembly in 1908, BISM offers innovative life skills training programs and services free of charge for blind and visually impaired Marylanders of all ages. BISM also provides diverse employment opportunities for over 450 associates, the majority of whom are blind, and manufactures more than 150 products at our locations in Baltimore, Cumberland, Salisbury, and Raleigh (NC). To learn BISM, visit

 About All-Fill, Inc.

All-Fill, Inc. manufactures, services and supports a complete line of machinery for powder filling and liquid filling, packaging equipment machinery, check weighing, and feeding of products used in the packaging of food products, pharmaceuticals and chemicals. Founded in 1969 in Newtown Square, PA, All-Fill relocated to its present plant in Exton, PA in 1989.

 About National Industries for the Blind (NIB)

For nearly 75 years, NIB has been focused on its mission to enhance opportunities for economic and personal independence of persons who are blind, primarily through creating, sustaining and improving employment. NIB and its network of 90 associated nonprofit agencies nationwide serve as the largest employer of people who are blind by the sale of SKILCRAFT® and other quality products and services to federal customers through the AbilityOne Program.