LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A Pennsylvania-based nonprofit with a mission to empower those with vision issues began operations in Little Rock on Monday.

VisionCorps has acquired a notebook manufacturing business line and its real estate in Little Rock. Manufacturing is meant to increase employment opportunities for those who are blind or vision-impaired as part of VisionCorp’s mission.

Ultimately 50 individuals will be employed, the majority of whom will be blind, representatives said.

By the end of 2023, VisionCorps will prepare cartridges for formatting audiobooks for the National Library Service at the Little Rock plant, an expansion of its current NLS contract operations conducted in York, Pennsylvania.

In 2024, the company plans to add production for packaging rice for the U.S. military, representatives said. The rice packaging was a component in locating to Little Rock, representatives said, putting the company close to key suppliers for its rice-packaging operation, they said.

VisionCorps is a member agency of National Industries for the Blind, the largest employer of people who are blind in the country. NIB connects VisionCorps and similar agencies with manufacturing and contract opportunities for the federal government under the national AbilityOne program.

NIB president and CEO Kevin Lynch said its program was important to reducing unemployment.

“Although national unemployment rates are very low, this is not the case for people with disabilities,” Lynch said. Nationwide, approximately 70 percent of working-age adults who are blind are not employed, and the jobless rate for those with a disability is about twice as high as the rate for people without one.”

Lynch said the VisionCorps move to Little Rock and its increasing employment for those with vision loss is exciting for the NIB.