On July 26, 2018, the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, AFB was designated as a Central Nonprofit Agency (CNA) by the federal AbilityOne Program, the country’s largest source of employment for people who are blind or visually impaired or have significant disabilities. AFB’s new role represents an opportunity to build on the program’s successful track record.

Since 1938, the AbilityOne Program has created employment opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired by providing products and services to the federal government. More than 550 nonprofit organizations participate, creating jobs that provide products and services to the federal government at a fair market price. The program is administered by the U.S. AbilityOne Commission — an independent federal agency — with assistance from its CNAs: National Industries for the Blind, SourceAmerica, and AFB.

AFB is in the midst of a multi-year process to become a fully functioning CNA that can negotiate contracts and bring new nonprofits into the program. The long-term goal is to work with the Commission and the other CNAs to help foster competition, bring greater value to government customers and expand job opportunities for people who are visually impaired or have significant disabilities. In addition, AFB hopes to work with all AbilityOne partners to create incentives for nonprofits to become a pipeline that feeds into private industry, including strategies to better model the skillsets needed to mainstream more employees into integrated competitive environments.

AFB is currently applying its research expertise to conduct an environmental scan of existing legislation that limits or facilitates these objectives, to identify challenges and opportunities to strengthen and expand the program. We are also engaging with stakeholders to better understand the challenges they face, ideas for improvement, and new opportunities. In subsequent phases, AFB will present its findings to the AbilityOne Commission and begin exploring new government contracts and nonprofit alliances, while developing strategies to create more private-industry opportunities in the future.