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AbilityOne Program

AbilityOne Employee

History

The AbilityOne Program is one of the largest sources of employment in the United States for people who are blind or have significant disabilities. Approximately 500 nonprofit organizations employ these individuals and provide quality products and services to the Federal Government at a fair market price. 

The Program is administered by the U.S. AbilityOne Commission, an independent Federal agency, with assistance from National Industries for the Blind (NIB), SourceAmerica®, and American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)

AbilityOne Milestones

1938
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Wagner-O’Day Act on June 25, 1938. Congress establishes the Committee on Purchases of Blind-Made Products (Committee), and President Roosevelt appoints the Committee’s first members. The Committee will later become known as the U.S. AbilityOne Commission (Commission).

President Franklin D. Roosevelt Senator Robert Wagner Rep. Caroline O'Day

(l to r) President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Senator Robert Wagner-NY, and Rep. Caroline O'Day-NY

1938
NIB Logo

NIB was incorporated as a 501(c)(3), private, nonprofit corporation on August 10, 1938.

1940s
As American forces take up arms to defend democracy in WWII, workers who are blind help meet the growing demand for various products needed by the military.

1952
Skilcraft Logo

NIB launches SKILCRAFT® - the brand name for quality products made by people who are blind.

1955
The first military resale products reach the shelves in commissary stores.

1969
NIB establishes a rehabilitation-services division to nurture the skills of people who are blind.

1971
Legislation sponsored by Senator Jacob K. Javits amends the original Wagner-O’Day Act to include people with significant disabilities and allow for the provision of services, as well as products. The legislation becomes known as the Javits-Wagner-O’Day (JWOD) Act.

The Act provides for a full-time civil-servant staff to support the Committee members.

.Senator Jacob K. Javits

Senator Jacob K. Javits - NY

1974
National Industries for the Severely Handicapped (later to become NISH, and then SourceAmerica®) begins operations. It joins NIB as a Central Nonprofit Agency (CNA) in the JWOD Program.

1980
The JWOD Program provides jobs to 7,500 people, provides 3.8 million direct labor hours, pays an average hourly wage of nearly $3.00, and pays $11.6 million in direct labor wages.

1988
GSA implements changes in procurement practices in the government marketplace relating to the Federal supply system and government purchase cards. The JWOD Program responds by collaborating with its Federal customers to meet their needs while providing best-value products and services.

1991
Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm create a massive production surge in JWOD-participating nonprofit agencies, which meet the challenge of supplying American troops with millions of dollars’ worth of critically-needed products. Never before have JWOD-participating nonprofit agencies been called upon to deliver so many products and services in so short a period of time.

1996
The Committee authorizes the first commercial distributors for JWOD products.

2001
The JWOD Program provides surge support during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. There is a significant growth in employment opportunities, and the program expands product and service lines to provide military-unique requirements including chemical protective garments, uniforms, fleet-vehicle maintenance, and document destruction.

2005
In response to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, NIB and SourceAmerica come to the aid of their impacted affiliated nonprofit agencies and employees with various forms of financial, technical and logistical assistance. NIB and its affiliated nonprofit agencies donate more than $250,000 to assist affected employees who are blind. SourceAmerica authorizes $5 million and creates a Disaster Relief bulletin board on its website to pair affected nonprofit agencies with those providing assistance.

2006
For the first time, the Committee elects a Chairperson who is a private citizen and a person with a disability. The Committee also, for the first time, elects a Vice Chair who is a private citizen and who is blind. The Committee changes the name of the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Program to the AbilityOne Program, so as to increase brand recognition; the Committee subsequently approves a corresponding logo.

2008
President George W. Bush signs a memo of support for the AbilityOne Program, and First Lady Laura Bush holds a recognition event at the White House with employees of the year.

2011
The Committee begins operating as the U.S. AbilityOne Commission.

2012
AbilityOne sales and services to the Federal Government are valued at more than $2 billion. While AbilityOne continues to experience growth in wages paid to its more than 50,000 employees, AbilityOne sales to the Federal Government account for less than one percent of all Federal procurement dollars spent.

2013
SourceAmerica Logo

NISH begins operating as SourceAmerica® to better represent the exceptional workforce that inspires its vision: employment for every person with a significant disability.

2014/2015
AbilityOne nonprofit agencies manufacture impermeable utility aprons and biohazard bags to help contain the Ebola virus. Both items are used to support Operation United Assistance, the Defense Department mission supporting the U.S. Agency for International Development–led effort to contain Ebola in Western Africa.

2016
The Commission issues its “Declaration in Support of Minimum Wage for All People Who Are Blind or Have Significant Disabilities.”

The Commission signs Cooperative Agreements with NIB and SourceAmerica. These first-ever written agreements between the Commission and the CNAs define the governing relationship between the parties and spell out the roles and responsibilities of each.

The Commission’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) is established. Its mission is to promote the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of AbilityOne programs and operations, and protect these programs and operations against fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement.

2017
The Commission establishes a Western U.S. Field Office to strengthen oversight of the AbilityOne Program and provide support to Federal customers.

The Commission establishes a Directorate of Veterans Employment and Initiatives to focus on providing employment opportunities to veterans who are blind or have significant disabilities.

2018
AFB Logo

The Commission designates the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) to join NIB and SourceAmerica as an AbilityOne CNA. The Commission and AFB sign a Cooperative Agreement. AFB subsequently successfully completed the first phase of its Cooperative Agreement with the Commission and decided not to pursue additional phases. AFB’s status as an AbilityOne CNA ended on Dec. 31, 2020.

 

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