Quality Work Environment for People Who Are Blind or Have Other Significant Disabilities

Jan 19, 2010, 18:56 ET from Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled

AbilityOne Committee Affirms Groundbreaking Recommendations

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled (Committee) voted unanimously to affirm recommendations developed to ensure AbilityOne employees will have: choice, improved workplace supports, competitive wages, a clear career path, ongoing training, and several other key benefits.  These core principles of the Quality Work Environment (QWE) initiative reflect the Committee's vision to enable all people who are blind or have other severe disabilities to achieve their maximum employment potential.  

(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20100119/DC40463)

The QWE initiative has identified and will promote best practices for the program's nationwide workforce of more than 45,000 Americans.  This will involve the more than 600 nonprofit agencies participating in the AbilityOne Program through two Central Nonprofit Agencies: National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and NISH (Creating Employment Opportunities for People with Severe Disabilities).  Committee Vice Chairperson James Omvig said, "This is an important day in the history of the AbilityOne Program, demonstrating our commitment to continuously enhance the work environment for people who are blind or have other significant disabilities."

Since the Committee's approval of the QWE concept one year ago, a collaborative "bottom up" process commenced, led by a QWE Steering Group composed of nonprofit agency (NPA) leaders and subject matter experts.  NIB President and CEO Kevin Lynch and NISH President and CEO Robert Chamberlin sent a memorandum from Tina Ballard, Committee Executive Director and CEO, to the newly appointed steering group with the charge to take the leadership role in developing the Central Nonprofit Agencies' QWE business plan recommendations.  The steering group completed an intensive review of current best practices from industry and nonprofit organizations.  As a result of this research, the steering group developed an implementation plan including core and progressive guidelines that foster a quality work environment.  These guidelines, supported by management tools, will be made available to all AbilityOne NPAs, allowing them to initiate their own individual work plans.  The Committee envisions all AbilityOne nonprofit agencies will embrace and adopt individual QWE plans by the end of 2012.  As part of this process, NIB and NISH will assist their producing nonprofit agencies in implementing this initiative.  "The outstanding effort of this group will live on well into the future, opening the doors of opportunity wider for Americans who are blind or have other significant disabilities, "said Andrew Houghton, Chairperson, Committee for Purchase.

The Committee formally recognized the QWE leaders – Neil Romano, former Department of Labor Committee representative; John Miller, Steering Group Chairperson and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin; and Robert Hanye, Steering Group Vice Chairperson and CEO of the Association for Vision Rehabilitation and Employment in Binghamton, NY for their efforts.  Other recognized steering group participants include Jerry Bettenhausen, CEO of Work Services Corporation, Wichita Falls, TX; Rich Gilmartin, Vice President for Vocational Services at Lakeview Center in Pensacola, FL; Lou Moneymaker, CEO of BOSMA Enterprises in Indianapolis, IN; Steve Perdue, CEO of Grand Traverse Industries of Traverse City, MI; Deborah Russell, Manager for Outreach and Employment Services for Walgreens in Deerfield, IL; Bobby Silverstein, Counsel for the American Congress of Community Supports and Employment Services, also known as ACCSES, in Washington, D.C.; and Robin Usalis, CEO of the Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Cincinnati, OH.

The AbilityOne Program is the largest single source of employment opportunities for people who are blind or have other significant disabilities in the United States. The Committee determines which products and services purchased by the Federal Government must be procured from AbilityOne-participating nonprofit agencies; and it establishes the fair market prices for these products and services, and subsequent revisions as appropriate. In assisting the Federal Government in expanding its AbilityOne procurement, the Committee has designated more than 400 authorized distributors.  The Committee is comprised of 15 Presidential appointees, with 11 representing Federal agencies, and four serving as private citizens who are knowledgeable about the obstacles to employment of people who are blind or have other significant disabilities.

SOURCE Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled