News from Northwest ADA Center – Idaho

With roots back to the New Deal of the 1930’s, the Javits-Wagner-O’Day (JWOD) Act, which operates as the AbilityOne Program today, is a complex use of federal procurement power to seek to increase the employment of people who are blind or have significant disabilities. The AbilityOne Program relies on a network of around 500 nonprofit agencies to make products and provide services that the Federal Government agencies are mandated to purchase. 

To increase employment opportunities, the nonprofits are required to employ people who are blind or have a significant disability.  This latest report looks at the follow up of a 2019 white paper. It also addresses the sue of Section 14{c} sub minimum wage certificates used in sheltered workshops.

What they found during the most recent eight year period that the employment of people with disabilities through the AbilityOne Program at best remained static for one group while another group declined. All this while records indicate an increase in the purchase of goods and services by the Federal Government. So despite the increase in total sales, the percentage of money going to pay wages for people who are blind or have a significant disability declined from over 20% to 18% between those years. In short – increased purchases with lower employment of the target population.

There are systemic issues around the AbilityOne Program with transparency, oversight, and compliance, structural integrity, and philosophical underpinnings. Most critically, however, is the ongoing conflict between the amount of labor by people with disabilities. The system inherently creates pressure on AbilityOne to place workers into more
segregated settings, whether as work crews or on the production floor, while the entire program perpetuates a separate system for people who are blind or have significant disabilities at the same time it tries to achieve greater integration. Plus the use of 14{c} certificates result in paying less than the prevailing wage for the job but at least the minimum wage. 

Given the numerous problems, coupled with the necessity of America to advance to the fullest extent the integration of people with all disabilities into the mainstream of society, we call on Congress to phase out the AbilityOne Program over an eight year period and replace the program by requiring federal contractors to hire a percentage of people who are blind or have a significant disability. This would mean Congress will require all federal contractors and subcontractors with at least $200,000 in contracts and 50 or more employees to hire a certain percentage of people with disabilities. The 45,000 jobs currently within the program will be captured under the new requirements. A new study would determine what percentage of people with disabilities would need to be hired.

You can read the whole study here: 



For more information about the ADA contact:

Dana Gover, MPA, and ACTCP Certification, ADA Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator 

For more information about ADA Technical Assistance visit the NW ADA Center Idaho website:
Phone: Voice and Text 208-841-9422
Idaho Relay Service: 7