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Advocating for Equal Opportunities: Public Policy Day at IBVI

It’s one thing to employ people who are blind or visually impaired, but it’s another to advocate for the entire blind community. At IBVI, we do both.

As a member of National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and an AbilityOne® provider, we are Wisconsin’s largest employer of people who are blind or visually impaired with a talented staff that produces office and janitorial supplies and mission-critical equipment for the United States government and military.

But our efforts don’t stop at employing those with visual impairments. With assistance and training through NIB, we also advocate on the federal level for better support and employment opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired nationwide—in fact, on “Public Policy Day,” we took our concerns to Capitol Hill virtually.

“We take the opportunity to meet with U.S. senators and representatives very seriously because we know our efforts could impact countless lives,” said Alison Fortney, account and e-commerce specialist at IBVI, as well as lead public policy advocate. “The AbilityOne® program has served us so well for decades but we believe that, by transforming key parts of the program, we can expand our efforts and our impact.”

The issues our advocate team discussed on Public Policy Day revolved around transforming the AbilityOne® program, including:

  • Eliminating subminimum or commensurate wages.
  • Updating the current direct labor ratio requirement to include all jobs (supervisors, managers, and executives) held by employees who are blind or visually impaired.
  • Eliminating the outdated definition of significant disability that describes a person as “unable to maintain normal, competitive employment.”
  • Changing eligibility for participation in the AbilityOne Program to be determined by a licensed medical professional.
  • Creating a statutory utilization goal for all federal agencies to guarantee employment growth and ensure this “mandatory purchase” program can employ more Americans who are blind by serving more federal agency needs with quality products and services.
  • Eliminating the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) cash cliff to remove barriers to promotions, raises, and increased work hours.

The day also included training and discussion internally at IBVI about public policy and the AbilityOne program, as well as phone calls with U.S. senators and representatives in Washington, D.C.

“With the right tools and training, anyone can succeed in their job,” said CJ Lange, president and CEO of IBVI. “We appreciate the time and conversations with our representatives as we show them the importance of giving those who are blind or visually impaired the opportunity for employment—and, really, the opportunity to thrive.”

To learn more about IBVI and our available employment opportunities, please visit our careers page.

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