Long-time NABA employee, Randy Ashcroft was featured in the most recent edition of the “NYSAC News” (NYS Association of Counties). The article below goes on to talk about the NYS Preferred Source Program for People Who are Blind. The Preferred Source program, a state-mandated initiative under Section 162 of the Finance Law, directs state and local government agencies to purchase pre-approved products and services on the Office of General Services (OGS) Preferred Source List.
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NEW YORKERS WHO ARE BLIND PROVIDE SMART BUSINESS SOLUTIONS AND EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES FOR COUNTIES ACROSS THE STATE
When people hear about Randy Ashcroft’s daily five-hour, round-trip public transit commute to his job at The Northeastern Association of the Blind at Albany (NABA), many react to his dedication with shock and amazement. For Randy, who has been legally blind since birth, having a strong work ethic is something that has always been a part of him, starting with his paper route while in school, leading up to his career at NABA.
“I enjoy what I am doing. I like to work, socialize, and have money in my pocket,” Randy said.
His job as a packer and production worker brings him great pride not only because it allows him economic and personal independence, but because he knows that the vests, cable ties, and trooper boots he packages and labels every day, are quality products that are going to some of New York’s finest to help them do their jobs and support the community. The NYS Department of Transportation, NYC Transit Authority, Metro North Railroad, Long Island Railroad, and the NYS Trooper Academy are just a few of the great institutions that help support employees who are blind through the New York State Preferred Source Program for People who are Blind (NYSPSP).
NYSPSP is designated by the NYS Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS)/NYS Commission for the Blind (NYSCB). The mission of NYSPSP is to create diverse employment opportunities and upward mobility for New Yorkers who are blind and visually impaired. Under the NYS Finance Law, state and local public sector agencies must purchase pre-approved products and services that meet their “form, function and utility” on the Office of General Services (OGS) Preferred Source List from NYSPSP. By purchasing through NYSPSP, agencies also and save staff time and resources by not having to conduct their own procurement process.
By directing government agencies to purchase these pre-approved products and services, agencies are helping to create and sustain employment opportunities for New Yorkers who are blind. All of these offerings are produced by affiliated nonprofit agencies in New York that employ people who are blind or legally blind. Its affiliated nonprofit agencies are creating hundreds of new tax payers and making positive economic impacts to their surrounding communities.
Through its network of nine affiliated nonprofit agencies all located in downtown/urban areas, NYSPSP makes significant economic impacts that span not only across the state geographically, but reaches all levels of New York government as well. From the extensive business lines that can fulfill state and local operational needs, to expanding the mission of creating opportunities for employment and economic independence for people who are blind, NYSPSP is one of New York’s win-win solutions for economic opportunities.
The proud history of New Yorkers who are blind supporting their local communities by providing products and services began more than 70 years ago. In 1945, the State made a commitment to provide meaningful employment opportunities for New Yorkers who are blind through legislation committing the State and its political subdivisions to purchase blind-made goods. These include state agencies, public benefit corporations, public authorities, municipalities, and school districts. In providing access to this large market, the State created the opportunity for economic independence and career mobility for people who would otherwise have difficulty finding meaningful employment.
In its early days, NYSPSP business lines largely focused on sewn products and later expanded to janitorial items and stationery products. Today, NYSPSP is readily able to respond to the needs of current customers and market itself to new ones. Over the years, innovation has helped agencies convert into modern manufacturing facilities capable of producing a wide range of contemporary commodities such as toner cartridges, safety vests, first aid supplies, gloves, and workwear. The catalog of products from NYSPSP and affiliated agencies is constantly growing to respond to the changing and specific needs of customers.
In 2016, the rapid response solutions that agencies can provide were put on full display: Governor Cuomo announced a plan to combat the Zika virus that included a Zika Protection Kit. Immediately, the Association for Vision Rehabilitation and Employment (AVRE) located in Binghamton, knew they had the resources to meet this urgent government need and within a week, had signed a contract and began work to source all the components for all 20,000 kits.
“We were very excited when we were approved by New York State to build the kits,” said AVRE President and CEO Ken Fernald. “We are always looking for new business opportunities that create more jobs for people who are blind or visually impaired.”
Products are just a part of the business lines that NYSPSP can offer cities and municipalities. NYSPSP and the agencies also offer several service lines that keep New York running and serving local communities. Employees who are blind or visually impaired work hard to provide quality professional services in a range of fields including call centers, data imaging, transcription, mailroom and distribution, and warehousing and distribution.
The majority of New York’s counties partner with NYSPSP and 40 of the 62 counties in the state already purchase from the program. Long Island, New York City, and Onondaga County are some of the largest purchasers, collectively spending more than $1 million annually in toner, medical supplies, janitorial, office, kitchen supplies, and more. These sales leverage prevailing wage employment opportunities for New Yorkers who are blind across the state.
The Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ABVI), in Rochester, New York, employs more than 80 people who are blind. They provide multiple lines of business and services and are always looking for new opportunities to support New York at any level. Some of the services ABVI employees provide include manufacturing and fulfillment, sewing, contact centers, and food services.
What makes doing business with NYSPSP and affiliated agencies different, is that customers are not only getting the pre-approved quality products and services they need, but they are also directly contributing to improving their communities and the lives of people who are blind. Today, seven out of 10 working-age Americans who are blind are not employed.
“When we succeed, it’s about more than making a sale; we’re improving and enriching the lives of thousands of New Yorkers who are blind,” said NYSPSP Executive Director Carrie Laney. “When we attended the NYSAC 2017 Albany Conference, it was a great opportunity to continue to promote our mission to counties and municipalities across New York. We heard from many incredible county leaders, and we believe there are many new opportunities for us to work together and help them meet their needs. This will also create even more jobs for people who are blind and new taxpayers in these communities.”
Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI) in Utica, New York, is one example of how business and mission work go hand-in-hand. CABVI recently opened a new operation in Syracuse, New York, and launched a new Industrial Nitrile Glove Program to provide custom solutions to customers’ needs. The impact of these changes didn’t just stop at the customer though. Thanks to the new business lines, CABVI had a 14,000 increase in employee hours for the year. Each one of those hours means a fellow New Yorker who is blind is able to work hard and do a job that they love to earn a living to support themselves and their families.
“For us it’s more than just numbers. We see each contract as an opportunity to not only help support our state and communities, but our citizens as well. When state and local agencies purchase products and services, they are also investing back in their communities through supporting employment and economic independence for people who are blind,” said CABVI President and CEO Rudy D’Amico.
“Because of their business, thousands of people who are blind across the state of New York are supporting families, investing in the economy, and are proud taxpayers,” he continued.
Through NYSPSP, New Yorkers who are blind are at the ready to contribute to the economy of counties and municipalities in the Empire State. For more info on the NYS Preferred Source law applicable to state and local government, visit https://nyspro.ogs.ny.gov/content/buying-preferred-source-0
To learn more about NYSPSP, and the various business lines, visit www.nyspsp.org.