The Wagner-O’Day Act, under which the AbilityOne Program resides, was enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Roosevelt. This act permitted agencies serving people who are blind to sell products like brooms and mops to the government. The law required that at least 75 percent of a participating organization’s direct labor employees be people who are blind.

The Wagner-O’Day Act established a committee appointed by the President of the United States—The Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled (formerly known as the Committee on Purchases of Blind-Made Products)—to oversee the Program. It authorized a central nonprofit agency to facilitate the distribution of orders and perform other related functions. A group of representatives from 20 agencies in 11 states began meeting at the American Foundation for the Blind soon after the law was passed. As a result of these meetings, National Industries for the Blind (NIB) was created and subsequently authorized by the Committee as the first central nonprofit agency designated to facilitate the Program.

The Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act was expanded when Senator Jacob Javits led an effort to permit people with significant disabilities to participate in the Program. The Javits Amendment also expanded the Act to include the provision of services to the Federal Government. Senator Jacob Javits and a coalition of agencies serving people with a range of significant disabilities spearheaded efforts to expand the Wagner-O’Day Act. The agencies included Goodwill Industries International, the National Easter Seal Society, the American Rehabilitation Association, The ARC, the United Cerebral Palsy Association and the International Association of Jewish Vocational Services. The expanded Javits-Wagner-O’Day (JWOD) Act (41 U.S.C. 46-48c) permitted nonprofit agencies serving people with significant disabilities to participate in the Program and authorized the agencies to provide not only supplies, but also services to the Federal Government.

NISH—Creating Employment Opportunities for People with Significant Disabilities was established to support a Federal program which uses the purchasing power of the government to expand employment opportunities for people who are blind or have significant disabilities. SourceAmerica thus became the second of two central nonprofit organizations designated by the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled to facilitate the AbilityOne Program. SourceAmerica’s objective is to create employment opportunities for people with significant disabilities by securing Federal contracts for its network of community-based, nonprofit agencies.

The history of the legislation which established the program is as follows:

The Procurement Champions Program was established to recognize Federal Government employees who provide outstanding support of the Javits-Wagner O’Day Program.

The Javits-Wagner O’Day Program commenced surge support during Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Post Major Combat Phase. The Congressional Champions Program was established to recognize senators and representatives who demonstrate outstanding support of their constituents with disabilities and the Javits-Wagner O’Day Program.

The Committee voted to change the name of the Program from Javits-Wagner-O’Day to AbilityOne. This name change allowed the Committee to harness the abilities of thousands of people who have disabilities and reflects all the people who make the Program possible.

The Committee changed its operating name to U.S. AbilityOne Commission™.

NISH changed its name to SourceAmerica to most accurately reflect the mission and the spirit of the organization, the nationwide scope of its efforts, and pride in being the largest source of job opportunities for a workforce of unparalleled dedication and steadfast quality: people with significant disabilities.

The AbilityOne Program is administered by an independent Federal agency—the U.S. AbilityOne Commission and supported by NIB and SourceAmerica. There are 15 Committee members, including 11 senior Federal executives, a majority of whom are procurement officials, and four private citizens who are advocates for people who are blind or have significant disabilities.