Prominent St. Louisian and Philanthropist, Mary E. Ryder founded The Lighthouse for the Blind, originally known as Industrial Aid for the Blind, Inc., in 1933. Through her compassion and imagination, she identified the need for a place whereby the blind could develop new, productive skills while simultaneously earning a steady income.
Currently, the Lighthouse holds over 20 contracts with Government agencies covering over 200 products. The current product mix includes Aerosol Cleaners, Bio-based Cleaners, Liquid Cleaners, Office Cleaners, Maintenance Products, Repellent, Paints and Coatings, Medical Products, and the first Green Seal Certified Environmentally Preferred Cleaners. To our knowledge, we are the only aerosol manufacturing facility in the world operated by primarily blind individuals.
In the 1930’s, our first facility manufactured brooms, mops, doormats, and various other articles. In 1968, we began production of ballpoint pen cartridges for the government and other blind agencies. In the 1980’s, we added aerosol paints and liquid cleaners to the product mix and were successful in obtaining a contract with General Services Administration (GSA) for the purchase of aerosol paint products.
As a result of this contract and new growth, we expanded from our main office to an additional satellite manufacturing facility in Berkeley, Missouri. This new operation facilitated the addition of aerosol filling and packaging capabilities and allowed us to broaden our spectrum of products.
In 2002, we began producing large scale medical kits and specialty bandage packaging and sterilization.
In Fall 2011, the Lighthouse expanded our Trenton manufacturing plant to add on 17,000 sq. ft. of medical manufacturing and kitting space along with training rooms for our Activities of Daily Living (ADL) programs.
In order to broaden our customer base and to further our manufacturing capabilities, the Lighthouse began to acquire assets of commercial companies. Between 2014 and 2018, the Lighthouse acquired four commercial brands – Quake Kare, Tear Mender, RapidFix and Badge Magic/CosBond. We invite you to learn more about our Commercial Brands by visiting “Our Brands” page.
In January of 2005, we launched the first of our sixteen “See the Future” programs. These programs have grown to include assistance to students in areas of technology adaptations, activities of daily living skill development, professional career development for professionals in the field of vision, scholarships to educational and recreational camps, older adult assistance with low vision aids and, a mobile low vision clinic.
The AbilityOne® Program
We are a member agency of the National Industries for the Blind and participate in the AbilityOne® Program. Established in 1938, the AbilityOne® Program is among the largest sources of employment in the United States for individuals who are blind or have significant disabilities. Currently, between our two plants, we employ a total of 100 individuals, of which 49 are blind or visually impaired! Approximately 93% of our direct labor force is legally blind.