Blind Entrepreneurs Educate Members of Congress
On May 22, 2018, over 100 blind entrepreneurs got off of buses on Independence Avenue in front of the Rayburn House Office Building and following a Congressional Breakfast spread out over Capitol Hill to educate their members of Congress about the Randolph-Sheppard Program. The message was that blind entrepreneurs can own and operate successful businesses when afforded the opportunity and that the Randolph-Sheppard priority is one worth supporting.
The discussions focused on 3 areas:
- The negative impact that rest area commercialization would have on blind entrepreneurs across the country;
- Problems with DoD contracting that create a disincentive for contracting officers to award troop dining contracts to Randolph-Sheppard; and,
- Problems in the Department of Education’s administration of the Program.
The rest area commercialization issue is one that is not new; however, it picked up steam this year when President Trump included the idea in his much anticipated infrastructure plan. If Congress enacted this proposal, approximately 400 blind entrepreneurs who operate vending at these rest areas could be displaced and lose their livelihoods. The goal was to make sure members knew exactly how blind people could be harmed by such legislation. Important: please click here for Commercialization Fact Sheet>>
The second issue related to Department of Defense contracting. Due to a quirk in the law, there is a disincentive for DoD contracting officers to award troop dining contracts to Randolph-Sheppard. The contracting officers have quotas they have to meet in terms of awarding contracts to small businesses. State Licensing Agencies are not small businesses so giving a contract to the SLA is the same as giving it to a large corporation. NABM would like to see that changed since in reality the contract is being managed by a small business owned by a blind person. Important: please click here for DoD contracting Fact Sheet>>
The third issue related to the Department of Education’s failure to promptly issue convening letters for arbitration panels or to approve state BEP rules in a timely manner. These failures are creating a hardship on blind vendors and SLA’s alike. The goal was simply to ask Congress to make Education do its job. Important: please click here for Department of Education’s Fact Sheet>>
It was a great experience and a productive one as dozens of blind entrepreneurs trekked to The Hill for their first time. Canes and dogs were evident everywhere. No one can tell the story of Randolph-Sheppard better than those who live it everyday.
The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.