compiled by Ardis Bazyn, RSVA® 2nd Vice President
Even though Randolph-Sheppard employment opportunities have been available since 1936, many are not aware of this option for employment. Even though technology and education have allowed more blind and visually impaired people to obtain additional employment opportunities, the Randolph-Sheppard Program still employs more blind and visually impaired people than any other program.
The Randolph-Sheppard Act, federally mandated and passed in 1936, provides employment opportunities for blind individuals in the United States through the Business Enterprise Program (BEP). A designated state licensing agency in each state (SLA) administers the Randolph-Sheppard program and has the first right of refusal to operate business facilities in federally owned government buildings. Besides federal facilities, BEP businesses are operated in city, county, and state facilities including snack bars, cafeterias, vending machine facilities, vending machine routes, highway rest areas, visitor welcome centers, gift shops, convenience stores, and food service canteen locations on military bases. These facilities generate over $750 million a year in sales, making the Randolph-Sheppard program the 7th largest food-service program in the nation.
Since each state program differs widely in training requirements and availability of locations, interested individuals should contact their rehabilitation counselor or local blind rehabilitation office. If you have a general agency, ask for your nearest blind services representative. To find a state BEP administrator, you can check for specific state info at www.ncsab.org. You can also email [email protected] for specific contact information. Each state provides training for its BEP locations and has its own criteria for licensing. Some state programs have training for those just wishing employment in food service but not management training.
Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America® is celebrating 50 years of achievement and advocacy this year. RSVA would like all blind people to be aware of the Randolph-Sheppard program and urges all blind people seeking employment to explore the Business Enterprise Program in their state. RSVA’s motto is “Blind Businessmen/Women Building a Better America.”
RSVA is committed to improving economic opportunities for blind managers and promotes independent and effective participation in the Business Enterprise Program. The purpose is to bring together blind people engaged in the operation of vending facilities and others supporting these goals and objectives:
- Promoting the general welfare of blind vendors nationwide;
- Providing forums for discussion of issues affecting licensed blind managers;
- Working to improve the education and training available to blind managers through two national conferences — the RSVA-sponsored Sagebrush national BEP training conference and the annual summer RSVA-ACB conference and convention;
- Providing technical and legal support to managers to ensure rights granted under the Randolph-Sheppard Act are not limited or voided by actions of property managers or state licensing agencies;
- Providing RSVA® speakers at meetings or conferences;
- Receiving support from ACB for monitoring actions of legislative and regulatory bodies affecting blind vendors;
- Promoting a positive image of blind vendors/managers as citizens contributing to the economy of communities where they work; and
- Publishing “The Vendorscope” magazine, the quarterly publication of RSVA. You can view past issues online at https://www.randolph-sheppard.org/.
RSVA membership offers the opportunity for fellowship with peers, to meet experts in the field, and to participate in the governance of the organization. The Durward K. McDaniel Memorial Fund is a legacy of legal support for endeavors protecting the Randolph-Sheppard Act under federal law. Learn more at the RSVA 2019 Sagebrush National Business Enterprise Program Training Conference in Las Vegas, Feb. 11-15, 2019. It is the longest running national training conference in the Randolph-Sheppard program history. You may contact RSVA via email, [email protected], or check www.randolph-sheppard.org.