Defense Logistics Agency taps blind and disabled workers

Thousands of blind and disabled workers could find jobs at the Defense Logistics Agency under a new agreement signed with the National Industries for the Blind (NIB). NIB will serve as a sort of employment agency for the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) under the agreement, signed July 30 by James Gibbons, NIB president, and Rear Adm. Raymond A. Archer, vice director of DLA. Under the 1971 Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act, federal agencies are required to purchase certain products and services from nonprofit agencies that employ the blind and disabled. NIB is an umbrella organization for such nonprofits for the blind. While most federal agencies use NIB for purchasing office supplies, DLA is the first agency to begin tapping the organization's people. DLA intends to fill critical skills gaps expected from retirements over the next 20 years with NIB-referred job applicants. "We're tapping into their capabilities to provide us a workforce [to perform] the day-to-day logistics business," said Archer. Under the arrangement, whenever a position at DLA becomes vacant, the agency's human resources office will send a job announcement to NIB, which will search for eligible candidates. NIB will prescreen resumes and interview potential candidates to make sure they meet the job's qualifications. NIB will also conduct background checks and verify references for referred applicants. If an NIB-referred applicant is hired, NIB will arrange for DLA to get the necessary adaptive equipment the blind or disabled hire will need to perform the job. NIB will get adaptive equipment through the Defense Department's Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program. Through that program, small agencies can get high-quality Braille displays, screen readers and magnification tools for employees who are blind or visually impaired; computer-based or stand-alone teletypewriters for the deaf; and track balls, touch pads and other devices for people with carpal tunnel syndrome and other illnesses and disabilities that affect dexterity. NIB will be reimbursed for its services only if the candidate it refers is hired. Other agencies can adapt the NIB-DLA employment agreement to fit their needs, a DLA spokeswoman said.

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