Several organizations comprised of Americans with disabilities recently announced a call to reform the AbilityOne Program, and set forth seven principles for reform, according to a media release from the National Federation of the Blind.

The organizations calling for reform include not only the United Spinal Association but also the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), TASH, the National Council for Independent Living (NCIL), the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), the Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE), and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), according to the release.

The seven principles for reform, the release explains, include: Commitment to the expressed integration mandate set forth by the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Olmstead v. L.C.; Implementation and development of best practices for employment of people with significant disabilities; Elimination of conflicts of interest that contribute to exploitation, fraud, and abuse; and Payment of prevailing wages and the elimination of subminimum-wage payments.

The principles also include: Ensuring financial and operational transparency and accountability; Relationship with employer; and Prioritizing awarding of contracts available through the procurement process to disability-owned businesses, including self-employed individuals with disabilities.

According to the release, proponents of reform of the AbilityOne Program note that the program must be brought up to contemporary standards of practice for supporting people with disabilities to access competitive integrated employment. They also note that when the reforms are adopted, an inspector general should be appointed to provide oversight of the program.

“The concentration of power in community rehabilitation programs and sheltered workshops is a fundamental flaw in the AbilityOne Program,” says Barb Trader, executive director of disability advocate TASH, in the release.

“Any federally sanctioned program must be a positive force for workers with disabilities by providing them freedom, self-determination, and real employment and career development opportunities,” she adds.

Mark A. Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, states in the release that the principles that are being set forth reflect the hopes and aspirations of all Americans with disabilities.

“Neither AbilityOne nor any other program that purports to serve us can do so without reference to our own determinations on how to live the lives we want,” Riccobono adds.

“We urge all other organizations of Americans with disabilities and like-minded service providers to join us in calling for an end to discrimination and low expectations, and to work with us for a future in which we, as Americans with disabilities, have full control over our destinies,” he continues.

[Source(s): National Federation of the Blind, PR Newswire]