Q&A: Perkins Products gets President's 'E' Award

A conversation with Dave Morgan

Man working on a Perkins Brailler

Last month, the U.S. Department of Commerce presented Perkins Products with the President's "E" Award—the highest recognition any U.S. entity may receive for contributing to the increase of American exports. Perkins Products Vice President and General Manager David Morgan, who attended the May ceremony in Washington, D.C., sat down with Perspectives to talk about what this distinguished honor means for a local company with a global mission.

How does it feel to be chosen for this award?

It feels really great. It draws attention to the amazing range of things Perkins does. Perkins Products is best known for the Perkins Brailler®, but we're now able to offer so many more assistive technology solutions for people who are blind, visually impaired or deafblind. At the same time, this recognition really celebrates small and mid-size businesses as the lifeblood of American industry. President Obama aims to double U.S. exports by 2014 and support an additional 2 million American jobs. These companies are where growth in job creation can really get started.

Just how big is Perkins Products' reach?

We've increased our worldwide exports by more than 60 percent in the last six years. During that period, we've established brand-new relationships with countries including Saudi Arabia, Russia, Nigeria, Argentina, Serbia and Yemen, and we continue to work with more than 165 other countries around the globe.

How do you account for this growth?

We've been manufacturing the Perkins Brailler and fostering literacy through braille for more than 60 years. The difference now is that we're more visible around the world. We're identifying where the need is and brokering new relationships with consumers, ministries of education, foundations and schools in need. And because we're educators first, these groups don't view us as just another vendor—they see us as a partner.

Braillers really are just one piece of Perkins Products' offerings today, correct?

Yes. This award primarily reflects exports of Braillers and items like refreshable braille displays. But we strongly believe the future success of Perkins Products—which supports Perkins' overall mission to help individuals who are blind, deafblind or visually impaired live productive, meaningful lives—lies in connecting them with the assistive technology and tools that promote independence. More and more we're getting into a range of products such as CCTVs, portable braille displays, text-to-speech and screen enlarging software for computers and hand-held magnifiers, to name a few. Our challenge now is awakening people to the range of solutions available.

So what does the future hold for Perkins Products?

Many people don't know that we're a fully authorized reseller of Apple products. You'll see us partnering with an iPhone or iPad to improve its accessibility through a refreshable braille display or video magnifier, making them more accessible for a person who is visually impaired or blind. We're also moving toward more technology training. We're uniquely positioned to provide before-sale technology evaluations and after-sale technology training. In other words, teachers or students may have a need, but they may not know what the best tools are to meet that need. We can help them understand their options, choose the best fit and then provide follow-up training, so that they get the most benefit.