New print shop will offer more opportunities for blind workers

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High-speed, high-tech printers will help the Louisiana Association for the Blind create a new employment niche.

A new building under construction on Claiborne Avenue in Shreveport will house the expanded printing division. President and CEO Shelly Taylor expects to move into the 29,000-square-foot building in about a year.

The commercial printing business is part of the 85-year-old organization’s plan to diversify its work and job training programs for visually handicapped people. LAB wants to replace manufacturing programs left over from a paper-driven era.

“Index card and (paper) table manufacturing are going downhill,” Taylor said.

The organization also is trying to broaden its customer base. The federal government has been LAB’s primary printing customer, but the recession and government budget cuts prompted LAB to look for new income sources, Taylor said.

Taylor expects the print shop and new manufacturing programs to create up to 20 permanent jobs for blind people. The printers will include adaptive software so people with little or no vision can set up and run print jobs using content provided by a graphic designer.

LAB also is trying to replace other manufacturing programs left from a paper-driven era.

LAB originally invested in the new printers after administrators realized it would be less expensive to print labels and other materials in-house. The print shop now turns out labels on demand, eliminating a two- or three-week wait for shipping from an out-of-state printing company.

Clyde Boggs, who oversees the print shop, said workers can whip up everything from posters to pushcards with the click of a mouse. The machines will stitch together booklets and automatically fold items. Until LAB leased the printers in 2011, a bookkeeper had to fold nearly 160 pay stubs by hand every pay period.

“Now she comes in here and pushes a button and the machine does it,” Boggs said.

The printers are a far cry from the presses on which Boggs trained 55 years ago.

“It was linotype, hot type, cold type,” he said. “I’ve been in the digital field about five years. It’s been a learning curve, but I’ve enjoyed it.”

Connect with Melody Brumble on Twitter @mbrumble.

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