by Nicky Gacos
From the Editor: Nicky Gacos is the president of the National Association of Blind Merchants, a division of the National Federation of the Blind. Monitor readers will remember the struggle to ensure that the program created as a result of the Randolph-Sheppard Act continues to be an important source of quality jobs for the blind. Here is what Nicky has to say about a recent press release from President Obama:
Many vendors and others concerned with the Randolph-Sheppard program may not yet be aware of a historic memorandum of support for this critically important employment and entrepreneurship program for blind Americans recently issued by President Obama. The memorandum, issued on January 20, 2012, and published in the Federal Register, is a firm declaration of support for the implementation of the Randolph-Sheppard Act at all levels of the federal government. It is also a celebration of this program’s seventy-five years of success. Both the National Federation of the Blind and its affiliate organization, the National Association of Blind Merchants, were pleased and proud to support the work of the Rehabilitation Services Administration and the White House as they developed this important and far-reaching advisory.
The memorandum not only reaffirms the importance of the Randolph-Sheppard program and stresses the importance of compliance but also requires that a report on implementation of the program by all federal agencies be submitted to the White House by January 20 of next year. This is a clear signal that the Obama administration is committed to the continued success and expansion of the program and that federal agencies and departments will be held accountable for taking steps to increase Randolph-Sheppard opportunities and improve compliance. The National Federation of the Blind commends the administration for recognizing the value of this critical program and taking affirmative steps to enforce it rigorously. The Randolph-Sheppard program is the most successful government initiative to increase employment among the blind in American history, and we are pleased that its importance is being amplified at the very highest levels of power. The full text of the memorandum follows.
A Message from President Obama
on the Importance of the Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Program
As our nation continues to recover from the economic downturn, the President continues to demonstrate that all Americans, including Americans with disabilities, must play a part in that recovery and have opportunities to work and contribute to our society.
Today the president issued a memorandum to the heads of executive departments and agencies regarding the federal support for the Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Program.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies
SUBJECT: Federal Support for the Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Program
Thousands of Americans who are blind have embraced the entrepreneurial spirit that helps define our nation as a land of opportunity. Through the Federal Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Program administered by the Department of Education, talented and creative individuals who are blind have acquired the management training and business skills necessary to realize the American dream—a lifetime of economic opportunity, independence, and self-sufficiency for themselves and their families.
For seventy-five years blind business managers have successfully operated food services and commercial ventures at federal, state, and private buildings and locations nationwide. We honor and celebrate this program's historic achievements. We also trust that the Randolph-Sheppard Program will continue to be a leading model for providing high-quality entrepreneurial opportunities for blind individuals. From a simple snack shop, to tourist services at the Hoover Dam, to full food-service operations at military installations, blind entrepreneurs have provided exceptional customer service to federal and state employees, the armed forces, and the general public. With proven ability they have challenged preconceived notions about disability.
The Randolph-Sheppard Act (20 U.S.C. 107 et seq.) created the Vending Facility Program requiring qualified blind individuals be given a priority to operate vending facilities on federal properties. This program is responsible today for providing entrepreneurial opportunities for over 2,500 individuals who are blind. In turn these business managers have hired thousands of workers, many of whom are individuals with disabilities. Every American, including persons with disabilities, deserves the opportunity to succeed without limits, earn equal pay for equal jobs, and aspire to full-time, career-oriented employment.
Continued support and cooperation are needed from executive departments, agencies, and offices to extend the Randolph-Sheppard priority to qualified blind managers through the state licensing agencies that implement the program. Therefore, I direct all agencies that have property management responsibilities to ensure that agency officials, when pursuing the establishment and operation of vending facilities (including cafeterias and military dining facilities) as defined in 20 U.S.C. 107e, issue permits and contracts in compliance with the Randolph-Sheppard Program and consistent with existing regulations and law. I further direct the secretary of education, through the commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, to submit a report to the president on agencies' implementation of the Randolph-Sheppard Program not later than one year from the date of this memorandum.
This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person. The secretary of education is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.