Turn on the news and you'll hear the valiant stories of troops in the U.S. military. And helping to support the troops are many other courageous patriots, in particular the people with severe disabilities who help keep servicemen and women equipped with the supplies they need.
Many of the products that help protect U.S. troops are produced by more than 45,000 people who are blind or have other severe disabilities working through the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Program. Also known as the JWOD Program, it is the largest single source of employment for people with disabilities, providing them with the job skills and training necessary to earn equitable wages, benefits and greater independence.
The JWOD Program, administered by the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, the federal agency that oversees the program, with assistance from NISH-Creating Employment Opportunities for People with Severe Disabilities and National Industries for the Blind, is designed to help reduce the nearly 70 percent unemployment rate among people who are blind or have severe disabilities. The program stems from the Wagner-O'Day Act passed in 1938 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which allowed agencies serving people who are blind to sell products to the federal government.
In 1971, under the leadership of Sen. Jacob Javits, Congress amended the Wagner-O'Day Act to allow people with severe disabilities to participate in the program. It also allowed agencies in the JWOD Program to provide services as well as products to the federal government.
NISH works with more than 600 nonprofit agencies to provide employment to people with disabilities. The following are some of the critical supplies produced through the JWOD Program.
* Chemical protective garments used to shield soldiers from biochemical weapons.
* Military clothing, including the new Army Combat Uniform, fleece jackets, camouflage fatigue trousers, overalls and dress slacks for the Navy and Air Force.
* Individual first-aid kits. The Marines worked closely with a JWOD-affiliated agency on the design and development of a first-aid kit pouch to increase the speed with which soldiers can administer aid to others or to themselves.
* Bandages. Millions of bandages in 14 sizes are produced each year for the armed services.