Braille Monitor                                                 March 2011

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Americans with Disabilities Business Opportunity Act

Purpose:

To unleash the entrepreneurial capacity of Americans with disabilities in order to reduce the staggering unemployment rate among these individuals and welcome them into the mainstream of American business.

Background:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than two-thirds of Americans with disabilities are unemployed or vastly under-employed. Strong and innovative initiatives are necessary to remedy this problem and put Americans with disabilities to work. To a substantial degree America’s economic success is tied to the freedom to engage in entrepreneurial activity and create one’s own wealth. It has long been the policy of the United States to promote the economic well-being of traditionally disadvantaged groups by creating a variety of business incentive programs that allow these groups to participate in the mainstream of the nation’s economy. These programs have not, however, been extended to Americans with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Business Opportunity Act (ADBOA) would greatly expand the ability of Americans with disabilities to secure entrepreneurial opportunities by:

Need for Legislation:

Each of the four components of the ADBOA would enhance the ability of businesses operated by Americans with disabilities to be fully integrated into the mainstream of the American economy. Together these components would reduce the unemployment rate among Americans with disabilities and make them fully productive members of society.

1.  Tax Credits: One effective method of encouraging and enticing business entities to subcontract with, or purchase goods and services from, businesses owned or operated by Americans with disabilities is to offer such entities tax credits. These tax credits would allow traditional businesses to realize substantial tax savings and also promote the goal of integrating businesses owned by people with disabilities into the economic mainstream.

2. Amendment of Section 8(a): Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act is a powerful program allowing businesses owned by racial, cultural, and ethnic minorities or women to secure federal contracts. Anyone seeking Section 8(a) certification must prove that he/she is socially and economically disadvantaged. Individuals who are from a racial, cultural, or ethnic minority or women are presumed to be socially disadvantaged. It is currently possible for individuals with disabilities to secure 8(a) certification, but such individuals must prove that they are socially disadvantaged. It is onerous to establish such a disadvantage under current laws and regulations. Placing people with disabilities on the presumptive list of those who are socially disadvantaged would create a much easier path to 8(a) certification for such individuals and therefore to the opportunity to secure federal contracts.

3. Changes to Federal Procurement Practices: Under current law business entities attempting to secure large federal contracts must guarantee that they will subcontract a portion of the work to small businesses that are owned by traditionally disadvantaged populations. Businesses owned by individuals with disabilities are currently not on the list of disadvantaged populations. ADBOA will permit for-profit business entities attempting to secure large federal contracts to meet procurement requirements by subcontracting with businesses owned by individuals with disabilities.

4. Establishment of Technical Assistance and Training Programs: Through the award of federal grants, ADBOA would establish technical assistance and training programs allowing business owners with disabilities to acquire the technical expertise to secure federal contracts and otherwise maximize entrepreneurial opportunities. The purpose for these federal grants will be to increase substantially the number of individuals with disabilities capable of operating successful businesses. The emphasis in federal disability policy in the past has not been on providing people with disabilities the tools and training necessary to support themselves. Rather many governmental programs for the disabled have been based on a welfare model. ADBOA would emphasize economic independence for individuals with disabilities by training them to run their own businesses. ADBOA grants would also allow entities to create tools to assist individuals with disabilities in running a successful business.

Requested Action:

Please support blind Americans by sponsoring the Americans with Disabilities Business Opportunity Act, legislation to increase business opportunities for disabled Americans.

Contact Information:

Jesse Hartle
Government Programs Specialist
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
Phone: (410) 659-9314, extension 2233
Email: <jhartle@nfb.org>


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