Blind Employees Make Mattresses Using Only Touch

Using their sense of touch, these blind men and women make mattresses and bedding through a cooperative that provides jobs to the visually impaired.

The wonders of touch

These blind men and women use touch to make mattresses, pillows, and bedding. They're part of the ACOPASANTAL cooperative in El Salvador, which provides job opportunities for the blind and visually impaired. Pastor Echeverria lost his sight when he was 28 from an illness. He’s been working here for 35 years. About 10 visually impaired people work at Colchonería Santa Lucía in the capital, San Salvador. Trinidad Sánchez lost her sight when she was 2 months old. She’s worked at the mattress shop for 22 years.

ACOPASANTAL has been owned and operated by visually impaired people since 1977. The organization grew out of an even earlier training program at the Salvadoran School for the Blind, which in 1945, with just two workers and $22 in working capital, set up the first workshop for the production of cotton mattresses by blind workers. Thanks to start-up donations of raw materials from Salvadoran businesses and production, office and storage facilities provided by the Society for the Protection of the Blind, the business prospered. By 1989, the cooperative had 20 members and owned real estate and equipment valued at $140,000 as well as liquid assets worth $37,000. Its slogan, Las Maravillas del Tacto (the wonders of touch), sends multiple messages, referring to the compensation for the absence of sight with an enhanced sense of touch, to the quality of the cooperative’s products and to the members’ spirit of accomplishment.

Unlike most workshops for the disabled, which tend to be run by non-disabled individuals and subsidized by governments, ACOPASANTAL is completely owned, managed and staffed by its visually impaired members. The bottom line is that ACOPASANTAL has obviously succeeded in offering 20 visually impaired Salvadorans an alternative to wardship, begging and dependence on relatives or the state, and has allowed them to live in dignity and support their families during tough times. Despite the challenges ahead, the cooperative continues its work through the wonders of touch.