People with disabilities continue to be underutilized resources in the nation’s labour market, with a 70% unemployment rate.
NISH, a nonprofit organization that assists agencies that employ individuals with disabilities in obtaining federal contracts via the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Program, is seeking to change the status quo. The organization recently launched a new initiative in which agencies designated as “Centers of Excellence” act as mentors to assist other agencies in improving the quality of the services and products they provide to the federal government.
The Javits-Wagner-O’Day Program is the single greatest source of employment for people with disabilities in the United States. Frequently referred to as the JWOD program, it employs almost 45,000 persons who are blind or have other severe disabilities.
NISH collaborates with a network of over 600 nonprofit organizations that employ and train persons with disabilities through the JWOD program.
The program evolved from the 1938 Wagner-O’Day Act, which allowed blind individuals to manufacture mops and brooms for sale to the federal government. Congress revised the legislation in 1971 to include those with severe disabilities and to empower the agencies to supply both products and services.
According to a recent Harris Interactive study, two out of every three people with disabilities who are not working desire employment but are unable to due to a lack of opportunities and accessibility concerns.