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Training Focus: AbilityOne Essentially the Same

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Kicking off the month of June, the GSA AbilityOne Representative (ABOR) Team hosted a virtual governmentwide training session. The AbilityOne program provides employment opportunities for people who are blind or have significant disabilities in the manufacturing and delivery of products and services to the federal government. 

Over 800 attendees from more than 25 government agencies attended the hour-and-a-half session with presenters from the U.S. the AbilityOne Commission, National Industries for the Blind and GSA senior leadership. 

Missed out? Here is everything you need to know about essentially the same (ETS) items and the impact you can have by buying them from the AbilityOne program.

What is essentially the same?

Essentially the same refers to a commercial product that has the same fit, form and function as an AbilityOne product. Fit refers to the same size or dimensional characteristics; form refers to the same appearance, shape, design, color, texture, quality, features; and functions refers to the same purpose. 

When the government adds an “essentially the same” product to the procurement list, the item gets a national stock number or item designation to identify it as an ETS. 

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy has asked federal agencies to pledge at least 1.5% of their FY 2022 total spending to the AbilityOne program. Federal buyers can help their agencies meet this commitment by purchasing ETS products from AbilityOne rather than a commercial source.

How is ETS identified?

AbilityOne central nonprofit agencies work with producing nonprofits to identify ETS through catalog searches, GSA Advantage and e-commerce site monitoring. AbilityOne works closely with GSA to identify and agree on items deemed ETS and quarterly files are released to AbilityOne authorized distributors. These distributors are responsible for removing commercial ETS items from their contracts. 

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What can you do?

AbilityOne identifies ETS items, but agencies are responsible for ensuring that ETS items are not offered on their contracting vehicles and that contracting officers are not buying ETS products from vendors. There are currently over 4,000 products available through AbilityOne’s authorized distributor program, which includes office products like writing instruments, and janitorial and sanitation supplies like mops, brooms and cleaning supplies. 

Together federal buyers can have a big impact on the AbilityOne program, reaching $1.6 million in ETS sales from GSA contracts in FY 2021. Here are some ways you can continue to support the program.

Use these channels to shop AbilityOne products:

Familiarize yourself with the AbilityOne procurement list and consider other products and services you buy that can be added.

Make the program part of your acquisition strategy. 

Lastly, work closely with your agency ABOR to identify opportunities for the AbilityOne program. The GSA ABOR team is here to answer your questions about AbilityOne and how you can support the program.  

Email us at gsaabor@gsa.gov. We look forward to seeing you at our next virtual training event! 

Last Reviewed: 2022-06-23