According to the American Foundation of the Blind, over half of working-age people who are blind or visually impaired are not in the labor market. And workers aged 18 to 64 with a visual impairment make median annual earnings of $19,656. In fact, the average wage disparity between full-time workers with disabilities and their non-disabled peers with the same amount of education is over $17,000. One of the biggest barriers facing this population is access to training aimed at helping them navigate a workforce and education system that many others do without similar barriers.

Clusiv, a WGU Labs Accelerator client, aims to bridge the gap between accessibility and usability through a scalable e-learning platform that provides high-quality technical workforce training and upskilling offerings for people who are blind or visually impaired.

We spoke with Clusiv Founder and CEO Lukas Simianer to learn more about the company and the future they are empowering for the blind and visually impaired workforce.

Tell us about Clusiv.

At Clusiv, we are revolutionizing education by empowering blind and low-vision individuals to overcome barriers and thrive in the modern workforce. Through our cutting-edge e-learning platform and comprehensive training programs, we equip our students with the necessary skills, assistive technologies, and support to excel in their careers. By bridging the gap between accessibility and education, we are creating a more inclusive and equitable learning environment for all.

What is the big problem in education that your company is helping to solve?

Educational systems have historically lacked the fundamental accessibility and inclusivity needed to support blind and low-vision students. Traditional educational systems often overlook the unique challenges faced by this community, leading to limited opportunities and unequal access to quality education. Clusiv is committed to leveling the playing field and ensuring that every individual, regardless of their visual impairment, has equal access to education and the tools they need to succeed.

What first motivated you to build this company?

The motivation behind building Clusiv was deeply rooted in personal experiences and the desire to make a positive impact. I witnessed the challenges blind individuals — 64% of whom are unemployed, not to mention the many others who are underemployed — face in accessing quality education and meaningful employment firsthand. My stepfather, who was blind, inspired me to create a solution that would empower blind and low-vision individuals to unlock their full potential and live independent, fulfilling lives.

What do you hope to accomplish through your partnership with the Accelerator at WGU Labs?

Through our partnership with the Accelerator at WGU Labs, we aim to expand our reach and impact on a larger scale. With 6 million Americans who have vision loss and 1 million experiencing blindness, there are a lot of people who could use help. By collaborating with forward-thinking organizations, we can leverage their expertise, resources, and network to accelerate the growth of Clusiv. Together, we can develop innovative solutions, refine our strategies, and create a stronger foundation to transform education for the blind and low-vision community.

How do you see your company contributing to a more equitable higher ed?

Clusiv plays a crucial role in contributing to a more equitable higher education system by breaking down barriers faced by individuals who are blind or visually impaired and creating inclusive opportunities for blind and low-vision students. We empower these individuals with the necessary skills, training, and assistive technologies to succeed in higher education, gain employment, and become active contributors to society. By promoting equal access and fostering a supportive environment, we strive to bridge the gap and ensure that everyone has an equal chance to pursue their educational and professional aspirations.

What are you most excited about for the future of education?

We are incredibly excited about the future of education and the transformative potential of technology. Advancements in e-learning, virtual reality, and assistive technologies are opening up new possibilities for inclusive and personalized learning experiences. We envision a future where every student, regardless of their abilities, can access high-quality education, collaborate with peers, and unleash their full potential. By embracing innovation and inclusivity, we can create a more dynamic, engaging, and equitable educational landscape for generations to come.