Quality Work Environment Improves Workplaces

QWE team group picture at Midwest Enterprises for the Blind.

Launched in June 2010, the Quality Work Environment (QWE) program is an initiative of the U.S. AbilityOne Commission® that focuses on skill development and upward career mobility for employees who are blind. Recognizing that dynamic work environments require a flexible and continuous approach to improvement, the AbilityOne Commission developed the QWE program to help NIB associated nonprofit agencies engage their employees in creating workplaces that keep up with evolving technology and business practices while serving the needs of the workforce.

NIB helps guide its associated agencies through the initial QWE process, making sure the steps are clear and well understood. Subsequent QWE iterations are led by the agency, with NIB providing support as needed. Each QWE iteration lasts 9-12 months and has four phases: overview, assessment, action plan development, and implementation. When an action plan is implemented during the fourth phase, a new iteration of the program begins.

As the result of the QWE initiative, much has been done to improve processes and workplaces at NIB associated agencies in ways large and small. Below are just a few examples of improvements implemented at NIB associated agencies as a result of the QWE process:

  • A new product development process at Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Utica, New York, ensures future opportunities are appropriate for production by employees who are blind or visually impaired.
  • At San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind, interested employees have an opportunity to attend free, bi-monthly one-on-one financial planning sessions with the retirement plan administrator and credit union representatives.
  • Production employees at Beacon Lighthouse in Wichita Falls, Texas, are now able to work in any job at the plant thanks to a cross-training program.
  • The QWE team at Arizona Industries for the Blind created programs and events outside normal work hours such as skiing, bowling, art programs, fishing, and tandem bike riding.

Today, 93% of NIB agencies are participating in the QWE initiative. To learn more about QWE at NIB and its associated agencies, visit https://www.nib.org/resources/quality-work-environment/.