50 Years of the JWOD Program

Photo of Senator Jacob K. Javits behind a desk

Today, NIB celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Javits-Wagner-O’Day (JWOD) Act. Thanks to the JWOD Act, each day, people who are blind continue to build rewarding careers at NIB associated agencies, manufacturing thousands of critical products and providing much-needed services for federal government customers, in addition to performing work in nearly every sector of the economy.

The Wagner O’Day Act, signed into law by President Roosevelt in 1938, formalized the sale of products made by people who are blind to the federal government and precipitated the founding of NIB as the program’s central nonprofit agency. The law’s expansion in 1971 as the JWOD Act, sponsored by Senator Jacob K. Javits and endorsed by NIB’s board of directors, built upon the original Wagner-O’Day Act to include the provision of services to the federal government by both people who are blind and those with significant disabilities. With the provisions of the JWOD Act, nonprofit agencies employing people who are blind were granted priority for the provision of products to the federal government, while nonprofit agencies employing people who are blind and nonprofit agencies employing people with significant disabilities were granted equal priority for the provision of services to the federal government.

The JWOD Act’s provisions also meant the independent federal agency overseeing the program – then known as the Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled – received a small appropriation and support staff and expanded to include more federal and private sector members. In 2006, the JWOD program became known as the AbilityOne® Program; the Commission began operating as the U.S. AbilityOne Commission® in 2011. As the AbilityOne Program has evolved, NIB has worked to continuously expand the number and types of SKILCRAFT® products and services available to federal customers, develop professional training programs, and increase employment opportunities for people who are blind.

As we recognize the anniversary of this important expansion of opportunities for people who are blind, NIB continues to support innovation that advances independence and employment opportunities for people who are blind. By embracing advances in accessible technology and delivering innovative training and professional development, NIB has launched new career options for people who are blind in a range professional services fields – including kitting, supply chain management, contract management, and cybersecurity. NIB has also expanded its SKILCRAFT® brand to include more than 4,000 different products, sustaining thousands of careers for people who are blind nationwide.

Recognizing the JWOD Act as “landmark legislation that led to greater economic and personal independence for people who are blind or visually impaired,” NIB president and CEO Kevin Lynch noted “we are still living in a time where the majority of working-age Americans who are blind are not employed. Legislation like the JWOD Act is still needed, even in today’s world.”