IFB Solutions 2021 employee of the year, Diana-Marie Soto is featured on the front cover of QuePasa Magazine.

Leer en español aquí.

English translation of the QuePasa article below.

Winston-Salem .- Diana Soto never thought that machine sewing was possible, much less did she imagine that she could dedicate herself to it professionally. Soto was born visually impaired, and since joining a Winston-Salem organization that serves blind people, her life has taken a 180-degree turn.

IFB Solutions is a city-based non-profit organization that employs and trains more than 1,000 blind people nationwide, including Soto, who was recently named Employee of the Year.

“(This recognition) means a lot, not only for being the employee of the year but because I am a Hispanic employee of the year,” Diana-Marie said in conversation with Qué Pasa.

IFB employs 300 Spanish-speaking people, of which 150 work at the Winston-Salem headquarters.

“I am proud to represent my community and that they see that they can do it too.”

Soto started working at IFB in 2018, where she learned how to sew military shirts at the organization’s factory. She also helps translate company information into Spanish and teaches English to her fellow Hispanics.

Working for the first time
In addition to sewing jobs, IFB trains and employs people for other jobs such as machine operators or customer service.

“We have people who come without experience, but we are willing to train, hire and give an opportunity,” Laura True, director of human resources, told Qué Pasa. “Just because they’ve never operated sewing machines before doesn’t mean they can’t.”

True explained that a third of his employees had never had a job before because, she said, blind people, tend to overcome many barriers, whether it be discrimination, transportation barriers, or, “employers just don’t have the confidence to hire someone who is blind. ”.

“Without organizations like ours, what are these people going to do? Many companies do not know how to receive them in their organizations ”, said True.

Barriers such as discrimination, transportation, or a lack of trust mean that many of IFB’s employees have never had a job before.

This is the case of Soto. The Puerto Rican was born with a retina pigmentosa, an eye disease that prevents her from seeing, especially when she enters places after being in the sun. Before coming to IFB, she had not had a job, and joining the organization has meant “a great change” in her life because, she said, it has given him the opportunity to have a job, a salary, and provide her children with things that before could not. Even, “now I have an iPhone and before I did not have!”

Although today, having a smartphone has become normalized, “for a blind person it means a lot because this type of phone has programs for the blind that make us completely independent,” she explained.

For example, she said, there are apps that help people guide them while they walk, others that tell them the colors of clothing or read letters or text messages.

Resources for adults and children
IFB also has a Community Center for Low Vision, through which it provides technology and other resources “to help those who want to live an independent life, both for adults and children,” explained Nicole Ducouer, director of communications.

“There is a lot of help for families with children who are struggling with their work, who are concerned that their children will one day be independent adults,” Ducouer said.

In addition, the organization offers after-school programs and summer camps for visually impaired children in Winston-Salem and other areas of North Carolina.

To learn more about the organization’s programs visit: https://ifbsolutions.org
To learn about the employment program, call Laura True at 336.245.5653.