In 1932, Ms. Mattie Smith, a teacher for the Alabama School for the Blind (ASB), was the first to envision blind employment opportunities for Alabamians. Utilizing borrowed and used sewing machines, Ms. Smith, along with five ASB graduates, made potholders, pillowcases and sheets. Ms. Smith and her former students then sold these products through the Federated Women's Clubs of Alabama. Thus, the Alabama Industries for the Blind (AIB) began the journey that has lasted for more than 90 years.
In 1938, Congress passed the Wagner-O'Day Act. This law directed federal agencies to purchase products from non-profit industries that employ people who are blind or those with multiple disabilities. Amended in 1971 as the Javits-Wagner-O'Day (JWOD) Act, now called the AbilityOne Program, it then provided for the purchase of both products and services and included federal purchasing from industries serving people with other severe disabilities.
Since 1932, AIB has steadily grown in products and personnel and is one of the top-five largest industries for the blind in the United States. Today, nearly 300 people are employed by AIB, including those at the main facility in Talladega and our Birmingham location. AIB provides services and employment opportunities by operating Base Supply Centers located at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville; Moody AFB at Valdosta, GA; Fort Rucker at Fort Rucker, AL; and Warner Robins AFB at Robins, GA.