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austinlighthouse.org

About Austin Lighthouse

Austin Lighthouse provides members of Austin’s blind and visually impaired community access to tools and training, to employment coaching and opportunities.

Austin Lighthouse Headquarter Location

4512 S Pleasant Valley Rd

Austin, Texas, 78744,

United States

512-442-2329

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Latest Austin Lighthouse News

Exclusive: How The Austin Lighthouse For The Blind Uses Robotics To Make Warehouse Work More Efficient And More Accessible

Nov 29, 2021

Austin Lighthouse Update 11/29: Added info that Fetch Robotics was acquired by Zebra Technologies. The eponymously-named Austin Lighthouse in Austin, Texas does what most lighthouses strive to do for the Blind and visually impaired communities. Also known as the Travis Association for the Blind, they provide orientation and mobility trainings, employment assistance, life skills trainings, and a wealth of other services. The Lighthouse, which has been in operation since the 1930s, describes its mission on its website as “[working] to assist people in building or restoring their independence through skills training, education, and employment opportunities.” One job on the Lighthouse’s docket is providing logistical services to military organizations like the Department of Defense; the Lighthouse oversees a million square feet of warehouse and distribution space in Austin and the surrounding area. This spring, in partnership with Fetch Robotics —who was acquired over the summer by Zebra Technologies —the Lighthouse began working with autonomous mobile robots, or AMRs, in an effort to help Blind and low vision workers in the warehouse. The use of robotics technology not only stays true to the Lighthouse’s mission of helping the Blind and low vision community be productive and independent, it boosts the non-profit’s ability to give quality logistics support. With four AMRs in service, the initiative has helped the Lighthouse’s 450 employees see a 2.5x increase in productivity, as Fetch’s robots have helped make work that would otherwise be inaccessible possible for a Blind or low vision person. The time for workers need to travel the warehouse floor has decreased as the robots have been added to the shipping and receiving ends; the machines programmed to empty tricks and pallets do so in half the time. The increase in operational efficiency is made brighter by the increase in inclusive assistive technology that enables said efficiency. It’s a classic win-win situation—for the operation and, crucially, for the employees. “We were drawn to robotics as a way to enable all of our employees to work smarter, not harder. Reducing the amount of walking they have to do to complete a task in turn reduces wear and tear on the body and opens up job opportunities to those with limited mobility,” said Alonso Perales, Vice President of Business Innovation at the Austin Lighthouse, in an interview. “It also provides the chance to teach a higher-level skill that can translate into a job outside of the Lighthouse. The software and robots are managed and supported by one of our own visually impaired employees.” Perales told me the impetus for the robotics program came about in the last two years. In 2019, the Lighthouse decided to revamp their Regional Logistics Support Center facility in nearby Taylor to make it a showcase of their innovations work. The goal was to take what was learned from this process and apply it to other contracts. The use of robotics, Perales said, came up during the team’s initial planning discussion at the beginning of last year. The decision to go with Fetch happened because “other vendors failed to meet the accessibility and safety necessary for working in an environment where half of the employees are blind or visually impaired.” In building the project, the Lighthouse consulted with various experts such as industrial engineers, warehouse design folks, and many more people. The result of everyone’s work, Perales said, is “a warehouse and processes that are both functional and accessible for our employees.” MORE FOR YOU

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  • Where is Austin Lighthouse's headquarters?

    Austin Lighthouse's headquarters is located at 4512 S Pleasant Valley Rd, Austin.

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