History of the JWOD Act
In 1938, Senator Robert Wagner and Congresswoman Caroline O’Day drafted and passed a piece of legislation that became known as the Wagner-O’Day Act. It was part of President Roosevelt’s “New Deal” policy and it specifically ordered federal agencies to purchase certain supplies from workshops employing the blind that meant the necessary criteria.
In 1971, Senator Jacob Javits successfully expanded the Act to include employers of people with severe disabilities, not just the blind. Congress approved the expansion, and the law was renamed the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act, or JWOD. In the expanded law, the Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled set the requirements for the employers and specific products that federal agencies were to purchase from them.
In 2006, Congress renamed the committee AbilityOne.
AbilityOne’s committee is made up of fifteen presidentially appointed members. Eleven are representatives of the federal agencies which purchase the products and services, and the other four are private citizens, some of whom may work with non-profit agencies helping the blind and severely disabled, or the companies themselves.
There are two non-profits chosen by AbilityOne to assist with the program’s implementation. The National Industries for the Blind and SourceAmerica have networks of hundreds of national non-profit agencies under them, and ensure that as required by law, 75 percent of work is done by people who are blind or have severe disabilities.
Benefits of the JWOD Act
The JWOD Act is designed to help not just people with disabilities, but also to provide incentives for employers to have a broader hiring criteria. Under the JWOD Act, many people who may otherwise not be employed both have meaningful work and provide necessary products for the federal government. That extra independence reduces their need to rely solely on government and private assistance, which ultimately saves the taxpayer money too. All of that stems from AbilityOne’s primary mission, to provide the blind and severely disabled with employment opportunities.