Time Machine Tuesday: Colorado Industries for the Blind

During the 1950s the State of Colorado sponsored a program, run by a five-member board, that provided jobs for blind persons.  Colorado Industries for the Blind, or C.I.B., was modeled after a federal program and supported by state sales taxes.  It focused on four areas:  manufacturing, vending stands, rehabilitation, and home industries.

Employees on the manufacturing side produced brooms, brushes, mops, and rubber mats in a special C.I.B. workshop.  “Home industries,” similar to manufacturing, gave blind Coloradans the opportunity to make household items like aprons and ironing board covers.  The items would then be sold to blind door-to-door salesmen to resell.  In 1953, there were 12 persons making these household items.  Each was paid only on average $100 a year, the highest-earning worker being paid $460.

Workers at the vending stands earned substantially better pay than the household item manufacturers, but also put in more hours and didn’t have the option of working from the comfort of their homes like the home industries workers.  Vending stand operators earned between $100 and $440 per month.

The rehabilitation program’s purpose was to “find, train and place blind persons in a productive, self-sustaining capacity,” according to a 1954 legislative report available from our library.  From 1951-1953, the report notes, the program placed 94 blind persons in productive employment, including the manufacturing and vending programs described above as well as lathe operators, typists, press operators, and defense plant workers.  Others were able to begin self-employment.

The State of Colorado sponsored industrial programs for the blind, operating under various names, from the early twentieth century until about the 1970s.  A report of the program as it operated in 1912 is also available for checkout from our library.