Statement from Kirk Adams, President and CEO, American Foundation for the Blind

Arlington, VA (July 26, 2018)—The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) has a bold new mission to create a world of no limits for millions of Americans with vision loss. That includes significantly improving the workforce participation rate among people who are blind, which persistently hovers around 35% compared to about 70% for people without disabilities.

Today, on the anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, we are excited to be designated a Central Nonprofit Agency (CNA) under the AbilityOne Program, one of the nation's largest sources of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities. AFB will have the opportunity to partner with nonprofits, government agencies, and corporations to identify innovative ways to maximize the power of the Javits–Wagner–O'Day Act, the law requiring federal agencies to purchase specified supplies and services from nonprofit agencies employing people who are blind or who have significant disabilities.

As a CNA, AFB's primary focus will be giving people with visual impairments exceptional new career development opportunities in the fast-growing industries of financial services, healthcare and information technology, and to create pathways to mainstream, integrated employment in the public and private sectors.

Our first order of business is to launch an 18-month research phase to inform the design of this new model. AFB will conduct qualitative and quantitative research, including a literature review and market analysis. In addition, AFB will meet with key stakeholders engaged in procurement, as well as job training and placement.

It is essential that we address the unemployment and underemployment issue now. Technology is changing the way we work at an unprecedented pace, which opens a host of job opportunities for people who are blind so long as our systems are accessible and inclusive. Sixty five percent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in jobs that don't yet exist, according to the World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs report. That means we must stay current and ensure people with vision loss are developing the right skillsets to compete in the workforce today and in the future. Further, there are many private sector companies dedicated to hiring and promoting people with disabilities, recognizing that full inclusion strengthens company culture and improves the bottom line. AFB will connect these companies to qualified employees who are visually impaired.

We are thrilled about the possibilities to expand career options and increase workforce participation among people who are blind. Please stay tuned. We'll be keeping you apprised of our research findings as we move through Phase One of our work with the AbilityOne Commission.

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Adrianna Montague
Chief Community Engagement Officer
Tel: (212) 502-7615