For Immediate Release
Contact: Tina Pinedo
Washington, DC – The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) applauds the National Council on Disability (NCD) in calling for the phase out of the AbilityOne Program in a new report entitled Policies from the Past in a Modern Era: The Unintended Consequences of the AbilityOne Program & Section 14(c). The AbilityOne Program, which seeks to increase the employment of certain people with disabilities was originally designed during the Great Depression, and last modified before the digital revolution. The report notes problems with oversight, transparency, eligibility, and confusion around various roles in several aspects of the program.
The findings in the new report, drafted by NDRN with assistance from the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston under a cooperative agreement with NCD, point to an outdated employment model which results in the segregation and fewer advancement opportunities for certain people with disabilities employed under the program.
Alarmingly, despite best intentions, the employment of people who are blind has remained stagnated under the AbilityOne Program, and the employment of people with significant disabilities has declined over the past eight years, even as government sales from AbilityOne non-profit participants increased.
“The existing structure of the AbilityOne model keeps people with disabilities in segregated settings and is not consistent with the modern drive in the United States to increase competitive and integrated employment,” said Curt Decker, NDRN’s Executive Director. “Programs which encourage segregation and continue to allow the payment of people less than the minimum wage is unacceptable, and should no longer be used, especially by federal contractors.”
Policies from the Past in a Modern Era is one of four separate reports which NCD engaged with NDRN and its partners to produce to address a wide range of issues on disability rights and policies in the United States. In addition to an in-depth review of the history of the AbilityOne Program and Section 14(c) and how it operates today, the NCD report dissects AbilityOne sales and revenue.
The NCD report provides a series of recommendations that NCD believes will ultimately promote the employment of people with significant disabilities and who are blind that aligns with today’s national disability policy of full equity and inclusion.
Among its recommendations, NCD calls for:
- Congress to pass legislation to phase out the AbilityOne Program and amend Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act
- Legislation to include a requirement that federal contractors of a certain size to employ people who are blind or have a significant disability to increase integration of the workforce and job opportunities for people with these disabilities.
- A phaseout of the AbilityOne Program over an 8-year period to ensure jobs are not lost and a proper transition occurs.
- Interim steps to strengthen oversight and compliance, increase transparency, and restrict the payment of subminimum wages until a phaseout begins.
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The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the Network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.