National Industries for the Blind opened the doors of its new $53 million state-of-the-art headquarters to the public for the first time on Monday, March 11. The 105,000-square-foot building at 3000 Potomac Avenue at The Exchange at Potomac Yard is an impressive feather in Alexandria’s cap, as the NIB is the largest employment resources for blind people in the U.S.
“Everyone with a disability, no matter how big or small, wants to be independent wants to live as normal and full of life as possible,” U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th) said at the grand opening event. “And I am just so grateful for the many, many years of NIB’s leadership to make that happen around the country. We’re very proud to have you here.”
The LEED-Gold-certfied building was built in consultation with renowned blind architect Chris Downey, and includes notches at counters for canes to rest, multi-textured floors and carpets and user-friendly elevators. Construction on the eight-story facility took two years and was finished in Nov. 2018. It includes a 10,000 square foot event and training center, a large outdoor patio and gym. The site will also be home to a 40,000 square foot Kaiser Permanente medical office, which will open on April 1.
“NIB’s innovative career training programs position people who are blind for highly skilled, knowledge-based careers, NIB President and CEO Kevin Lynch said. “We look forward to cultivating partnerships with our neighbors here in Northern Virginia’s ‘innovation corridor’ to further our mission of creating employment opportunities for people who are blind.”
Doug Goist is an NIB program manager and has been completely sightless for more than 15 years.
“I lost all my office, Excel and everything else skills,” Goist said. “And so when you get back into the workforce, you need to get back up to speed. So that’s why we have a program completely entirely dedicated to getting everybody professional level. It helps when 70% of blind people are not working.”
Alexandria City Councilor Canek Aguirre attended the grand opening, and said he was thankful NIB chose to stay in Alexandria.
“First of all, I’m really glad that they chose not to go anywhere else, and decided to stay in Alexandria,” he said. “This just fits right into our statement of inclusivity. Alexandria is a place of inclusion. This is a testament of what we do as a community in Alexandria, and we’re looking forward to working with NIB.”
Susan Costlow, the chairperson of the NIB Board, said that Monday was an important day in the 81-year-old organization’s history.
“It’s wonderful to see so many supporters and members of the community here,” Costlow said. “Your presence says a lot about your commitment to NIB and the work it does to empower people who are blind find meaningful employment. This new headquarters in this training facility will play an important role in helping NIB and its associated agencies develop innovative new opportunities in years to come.”