James M. KestelootJames M. Kesteloot, Chairperson

Private Citizen and expert on obstacles to employment of persons who are blind.

James M. Kesteloot was appointed to the U.S. AbilityOne Commission by President Barack Obama in September 2010. He was elected Vice Chairperson in July 2011 and July 2013; and he was elected Chairperson in July 2015. Mr. Kesteloot is widely acknowledged as one of the leading figures in the blindness community who has been a national crusader in fighting for jobs for people who are blind or visually impaired.

As former president and executive director of the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind, he transformed the 105+- year-old agency into a nationally respected social service organization with a global reach.

Since 1966, Jim has been a pioneer in providing opportunities in career counseling and job placement services for citizens of Illinois who are blind, visually impaired and multi-disabled.

As a Vocational Counselor for the bureau now known as the Illinois State Department of Employment Security, he formed the cornerstone of his career providing job referral services and career counseling for people with disabilities. In 1969, Jim joined The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired as a Job Placement Counselor.

Legally blind his entire life allowed him a wealth of practical experience in changing people's perceptions regarding hiring those who are blind or visually impaired. This intimate knowledge also provided him the wisdom and perseverance to advise and encourage those he counseled to pursue their vocational goals and objectives.

Throughout his more than 40-year career at The Chicago Lighthouse, Jim has served in many capacities such as director of the manufacturing program, Chicago Lighthouse Industries; and Director of Professional Services, where he guided the Job Readiness and Placement program, before being named Executive Director in 1996. In 2002, Jim was elected President as well as Executive Director by the Board of Directors. He continues to work closely with the Board after The Chicago Lighthouse celebrated its Centennial in 2006.

As a professional in his field, Jim has consulted for many organizations and has served on numerous councils, including being appointed by Governors Thompson and Edgar to the state Blind Services Planning Council. Among his many current professional commitments, Jim served on the Executive Committee of National Industries for the Blind; as past President of the Central Lions Club, the introductory club that formed the international association; and as a member of the United Way of Chicago Council. He also served on the Base Store Committee for the National Association for the Employment of People Who Are Blind.

Jim Kesteloot earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Loyola University and his Masters of Science in Management of Rehabilitation Services from DePaul University, in addition to being a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor.

 

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