June 25 marks the 82nd anniversary of the Wagner-O’Day Act, the law that created what is today known as the AbilityOne® Program. When the Act was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938, society had a very limited view of the capabilities of people who are blind. Passage of the Act and the subsequent founding of NIB as the program’s first central nonprofit agency marked a turning point.
Now we are living in a time of unparalleled progress, where technological innovations are making the world accessible to people who are blind in ways only dreamed of in 1938.
Through the AbilityOne Program, people who are blind working at NIB associated nonprofit agencies are protecting government information networks from cyber threats; managing supply chains that support military operations around the world; closing out contracts for the Department of Defense; driving forklifts and operating other advanced machinery; and performing work in nearly every sector of the economy.
And as we fight COVID-19, our workforce is showing how the AbilityOne Program is a responsive and reliable source of supply for the federal government and military in times of need. Each day, people who are blind working at NIB associated agencies manufacture and deliver thousands of critical products that are strengthening the nation’s COVID-19 response, including personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer, cleaning products and disinfectants, first aid kits, exam gloves, toilet paper, and more. People who are blind are proud to provide these essential products to support hospitals, health care professionals, first responders, the U.S. military, and governments at all levels.
The AbilityOne Program is an example of government at its best. This largely self-funded, public-private partnership provides approximately 45,000 jobs for people who are blind or have severe disabilities, including our nation’s veterans. It addresses the chronic unemployment that people with disabilities face in the nation today while delivering quality products and services to the federal government at fair market prices.
In a future where opportunity is limited only by our imagination, NIB will continue to embrace innovation to expand employment opportunities for people who are blind. On this special anniversary, we applaud the thousands of men and women who have been empowered to achieve their own American Dream thanks to the AbilityOne Program.