Nonprofit agencies associated with National Industries for the Blind (NIB) typically host in-person visits with policymakers at their facilities during the traditional August congressional recess. Given that nothing has been typical or traditional during the COVID-19 pandemic, NIB supported the agencies in creating a virtual Grassroots Advocacy Week to share with local, state, and federal lawmakers and their staffs the positive impact the agencies have on local communities through the creation of dynamic career opportunities and provision of essential services to people who are blind.
“NIB greatly appreciates the nonprofit agencies that held dozens of virtual grassroots advocacy meetings with Senate and House offices during the congressional break,” said Rick Webster, NIB vice president of public policy. “While COVID-19 has temporarily changed how and where we conduct these meetings, they remain an essential part of our strategy to engage policymakers and share about the amazing careers we provide for Americans who are blind.”
During Grassroots Advocacy Week, agency leaders and employees met with legislators and staff members in-person (with appropriate social distancing, masks, and other safeguards) or virtually to talk about the SKILCRAFT® and AbilityOne products and services they provide that support military and federal customers and create careers for people who are blind. For some agencies, the meetings provided an opportunity to share how they accelerated work to support the federal response to the pandemic by providing critical products such as face masks, exam gloves, sanitizers and cleaning products, and services such as answering community referral lines and calls for unemployment assistance.
Agencies also asked Senate offices to support Senate Resolution 679. The measure, sponsored last month by Senator Mike Braun (R-IN), and co-sponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), David Perdue (R-GA), and Tim Scott (R-SC), recognizes the contributions of essential employees with disabilities who are working to keep America running during the COVID-19 pandemic, and thanks them for their efforts to provide vital services during these difficult times.
In addition, agencies used the opportunity to raise awareness of the AbilityOne® Program and the barriers that stand in the way of people who are blind landing rewarding jobs with career potential. Members of Congress were encouraged to become an AbilityOne Congressional Champion by demonstrating support of the AbilityOne Program and associated nonprofit agencies in their district or state through congressional actions.
In the face of the challenges the global pandemic presents, the Grassroots Advocacy Week gave NIB associated agencies a new and creative way to connect with policymakers and educate them about the work the agencies do in their local communities. With that knowledge, lawmakers have a better understanding of the importance of their support in growing the AbilityOne Program so people who are blind can build rewarding careers and achieve their own American Dream.