Chairperson of the AbilityOne Commission: Who Is James Kesteloot?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017
James Kesteloot (photo: NFB)

James M. Kesteloot, who has been legally blind his entire life, was appointed by President Barack Obama to the AbilityOne Commission, formerly the Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, in September 2010. He was elected vice chairperson in July 2011 and chairperson in July 2015.


Kesteloot is from Chicago. His first encounter with Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind (CLB) came when he was 13 years old and was sent there for treatment for his vision impairment. He graduated from Schurz High School in 1960. He subsequently earned a B.S. from Loyola in 1967 and an M.S. in management of rehabilitative services in 1977 from DePaul, both in the Chicago area.


He began his career in 1966 as a vocational counselor at what is now the Illinois State Department of Employment Security, referring clients for jobs and counseling those with disabilities.


In 1969, Kesteloot took a job at CLB, where he’d sought help years before, as a job placement counselor. He subsequently was named director of the manufacturing program—CLB makes clocks, among other things—and director of professional services.


Kesteloot was made CLB’s executive director in 1996 and added the title of president to his resume in 2002. One of his challenges there was the dropoff in business from CLB’s largest customer. The federal government formerly accounted for 90% of the organization’s business in clocks. Regulations changed, allowing departments to purchase clocks locally, such as from big-box stores. Kesteloot retired from CLB in 2009.


Kesteloot lives in Arlington Heights, Illinois, with his wife, Barbara. They have three adult children.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Bringing Focus To The Visually Impaired (by Denny Johnson, Chicago Tribune)

Official Biography


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