Learning from Each Other: Tour was a Teachable Moment for Shipyard Workers and Associates from Lighthouse for the Blind

About 60 associates of the Lighthouse for the Blind touched and listened their way through the Foss Seattle shipyard recently during what turned out to be an educational tour for both the disabled people and their Foss employee guides.

“It was quite an experience for us and for them,” said Luba Babadzanov, shipyard project controls coordinator. “We learned a lot, and so did they.”

Outside Machine Shop Foreman Gordon Kramer, right, describes the propeller and its function as members of the tour group learn by touching it.

One of the most important lessons learned was how to keep the people safe. In addition to being issued hard hats and safety glasses, the disabled people were broken up into groups of five or six. Each group was accompanied by two interpreters from the Lighthouse and had shipyard guides leading and trailing as they walked through the yard.

While the shipyard guides kept the disabled people out of trouble, they also had to take care to face them directly while describing their surroundings. That enabled the interpreters, some who were disabled themselves in some way, to hear the guides.

The tour was intentionally held during swing shift, when activity in the yard was at a minimum.

The people on the tour were mainly blind or hearing impaired or a combination of the two. The Lighthouse is a non-profit enterprise providing employment, support and training opportunities for disabled people. Among its business activities, Lighthouse associates produce machined parts and plastic injection molding for various aerospace manufacturers.

The Lighthouse associates felt their way along a table set with tools, personal protective equipment and other gear supplied by each of the shipyard crafts. A large propeller also was on display, and tours focused on the outside machine shop and the shipwrights’ shop.

“These people had been working with similar tools at the Lighthouse,” Babadzanov said. “In a way, it was an information exchange.”

In addition to Babadzanov, key Foss people helping with the tour were Outside Machine Shop Foreman Gordon Kramer, Paint General Foreman Randy Litch, Production Manager Don Harris and Swing Shift Superintendent Michael Paige.

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