Chair Caning Shop to Close

Our chair caning shop will be closing at the end of 2019. In its place, the agency will be investing in new initiatives that will employ people who are blind and visually impaired.

The chair caning shop, which currently employs three part time people with visual impairments and one full time sighted program manager, started in 1925 as the Outlook Shop. It was the first initiative of the Rhode Island Association for the Blind and has provided meaningful employment for people with visual impairments for more than ninety years.

The shop repairs dozens of chairs each year, hand weaving new seats and backs with a variety of different cane materials.

With the staff of the chair caning shop all planning to retire by the end of the year, INSIGHT is hoping to create new jobs in their place that will provide opportunities for professional growth and advancement for a new generation of employees.

“It is hard to see this program go away,” says INSIGHT Executive Director Christopher Butler, who noted that with less demand for the service the time is right to transition to something new.

“Chair caning is an incredibly time consuming, tedious process that very few people are able to master,” Butler says. “We have been fortunate to have a team of folks who have really enjoyed the work, but they are almost impossible to replace. So now that they are looking to retire, it provides the opportunity to create new experiences for other folks to develop marketable skills that they can use to build long term careers.”

The new positions will likely be focused on outreach, public education, and low vision technology training.

In the meantime, the chair caning shop staff will be finishing up the work that is currently in house and will also take on as many new projects as time allows. The current plan is to close the program in mid-December 2019 when our veteran chair caner, Ray, turns seventy years old.

The shop is located in INSIGHT’s building at 43 Jefferson Boulevard in Warwick and is open weekdays from 8AM – 3PM. 

The chair caning shop circa 1926