The AbilityOne Program has come a long way, from the day the act was passed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938 to what it is now. The Wagner-O’Day Act was enacted to provide the blind with employment opportunities which were a great challenge to them then. The act enabled them to sell brooms and mops they had made to the federal government. By 2012, products and services offered by the AbilityOne Program to the government valued at more than two billion dollars. It shows how hard the program worked to improve itself.
Many positive changes have been experienced since starting. In 1971, people with severe disability were added in the Wagner-O’Day by Senator Jacob K. Javits thus the changing name to the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act. The new act also provided civil servants who would work hand-in-hand with the commission permanently. By 1980, the commission was providing jobs to more than seven thousand five hundred people. In the quest to make people from outside recognize their work, the commission changed their name to AbilityOne Program in 2006. The same year, both the elected chairperson and vice chairperson were private citizens and people with disabilities.
Starting from a humble beginning of making brooms and mops, the AbilityOne Program has grown to an agency that was even able to make biohazard bags and apron for the Ebola epidemic in Western Africa in 2014/2015. This was a huge job for the commission as the products were being used to help in a disaster the West African countries were going through. In the 2005 hurricanes, AbilityOne Program provided logistical, financial and technical assistance to the affected.
Support from different individuals and organizations also helped the growth of the AbilityOne Program. One of the greatest was from President George W. Bush who even signed a memo in 2008. The first lady held an event with employees of the year. National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and SourceAmerica also work with AbilityOne Program to ensure smooth running and getting more contracts.
SourceAmerica is a non-profit organization that works with AbilityOne to create employment for people with severe disability. Source America began working with AbilityOne as National Industries for the severely handicapped in 1974. The agency helps in securing federal contracts for the jobs offered. SourceAmerica looks for potential jobs that can be done by the employees. Once identified they obtain the data needed to determine if the job is suitable for AbilityOne Program.