A new AbilityOne storefront on Amazon Business gave federal procurement with a diversity mandate a boost earlier this month, making it easier for manufacturers with a high proportion of disabled workers. In the United States, AbilityOne is one of the biggest sources of employment for people living with disabilities and blindness since the 1930s.
The U.S. AbilityOne Commission oversees a network of approximately 500 non-profits that provide fair market rate products and services to the federal government alongside the program’s Authorised Agencies. Some 40,000 people have been employed under AbilityOne thanks to mission-critical mandatory supplier agreements with the government that cover everything from office supplies to janitorial supplies and personal protective equipment.
As of 2022, the program generated $2.1 billion mostly from the U.S. Department of Defense. The program offers a lot of services, including facilities management, contact centers, warehousing, and packaging, in addition to physical products. With SKILCRAFT, the National Industries for the Blind’s brand, AbilityOne products will become more visible and easier to buy on the tech giant’s business website. The goal is to leverage Amazon’s mega-brand value and familiar customer interface to benefit AbilityOne vendors.
Through Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 8.7 and the 1971 Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act, the government keeps its supply chain diverse. Customers will still be able to find AbilityOne products from other online retailers, but they’ll be identifiable through one portal instead of several different e-commerce sites. Also, since Amazon Business is a B2B business – the storefront is also bolstered by standard bulk procurement features such as guided buying, which automates permissions and approvals for staff. By boosting AbilityOne vendor sales, retailers increase their staffing levels, which helps charities and saves the American taxpayer money by pumping more money into charitable causes.
Despite being around for decades, disability employment initiatives have been criticized in some circles for being siloed anachronisms that are easily exploited. Those programs are a great opportunity for workers who might otherwise have been excluded from the workforce to upskill and contribute to the economy. They have all the legal checks and balances you need. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t embrace opportunities for modernization just because a model is traditional. Therefore, the future of AbilityOne should be much more secure by partnering with an online retail giant that will undoubtedly continue to shape our futures.
Alexis Boutilier is from Vancouver, British Columbia. She has a high interest in all things tech and loves to stay engaged on all the latest appliances and accessories.