IFB Solutions

Why We Source Mattresses Made By Blind & Visually Impaired Workers

In Beds, Green Manufacturing by Morgan Dix

Eighty four years ago, in a small two-room shop in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a few members of the local Lions Club gathered to charter a new initiative.

They were opening a manufacturing plant operated by the visually impaired.

It started small, but it grew into something remarkable.

Humble Beginnings

Winston-Salem Industries for the BlindThe organization founded that day was called Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind. It would grow to become IFB Solutions, the largest employer of people who are blind or visually impaired in the United States.

As one of our core partners, IFB is the source for almost all our mattresses.

To appreciate IFB’s humble beginnings, it’s useful to remember that the 1930’s marked an era when employment opportunities for the visually impaired were pretty much non-existent.

According to more recent data from a 2015 study published in the Journal of Blindness Innovation and Research, the employment rate for individuals who are legally blind or visually impaired is just 37% compared an average of 83.04% for people without disabilities.

In the beginning, IFB manufactured mattresses, brooms, and caned chairs. 

In the process, they forged the basis of an organization that would grow to improve the lives of countless individuals and families across the country.

85 Years of Growth

helen kellerJust a few years later, in the early 1940’s, IFB expanded from Winston-Salem and opened operations in Asheville, NC and Little Rock, AK. 

In fact, Helen Keller, the patron saint of the blind in America, dedicated IFB’s new Little Rock facility in 1945.

That’s why DCI is so proud to work with IFB Solutions as the provider for all our mattresses.

Today, IFB has grown into a national multimillion-dollar enterprise.

Among a host of other initiatives, IFB builds innerspring and foam mattresses and produces a broad line of high quality mattresses for military ships, barracks, universities, hospitals, assisted living facilities and more.

Sustainability at IFB

At DCI, we place a premium on sustainability. Of course we love their powerful social mission. But their focus on sustainability is also important.

IFB’s builds all its mattresses using recyclable materials. Since 2013, they’ve provided us with 58,844 mattresses, box springs, and mattress covers for our military and higher education customers.

But IFB’s sustainability efforts don’t stop there.

When IFB delivers mattresses they offer mattress removal and recycling services. They also provide customers with a certificate documenting the volume of waste kept out of the landfill.

This is a super valuable service. Why? 

Because mattresses are a real bugaboo for landfill managers. According to the Green Business Bureau:

Mattresses pose a serious problem when it comes to disposal. These large household products take up more than their fair share of space in landfills because they’re difficult to compact, clog machinery, and create large soft spaces that can turn into sinkholes after filling. The problem of mattress disposal can be confronted from two sides. The first is to recycle old mattresses, reusing their components to make new products. The other side of the equation involves purchasing organic/natural, biodegradable mattresses.

Sustainability at DCI

For nearly 40 years, we’ve worked to refine our products and production processes so we can offer you the most sustainable furniture in the residence hall furniture market.

IFB Solutions is a key anchor in our systematic efforts to source, build, and deliver furniture that has the lightest ecological footprint. 

If you’d like to learn more about our mattresses or any other part of our green manufacturing process, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us here.

IFB & Covid-19

And one last note. In this challenging time, we feel it’s important to highlight how companies are supporting their employees. In this respect, IFB has stepped up big time. Here’s how they’re responding:

As the largest employer of people who are blind, we know we need to do everything we can to support our employees and their wellbeing during this coronavirus crisis. We’ve launched the IFB Solutions People First Fund, devoting our own dollars to the best investment we can make – our people.

This fund invests up to $2,000,000 in our employees who are affected by the coronavirus by providing 4 weeks of full pay with the option to use PTO beyond this period.