History – Creating a path for employment for the blind
Originally passed in 1936, the Randolph-Sheppard Act creates entrepreneurial opportunities for blind people to achieve their “maximum vocational potential” through the operation of food and vending service businesses located on any federal property. In 1974, Congress clearly showed confidence in the program when it expanded the Act to include the operation of cafeterias by blind operators in order to demonstrate their capacity to perform management duties.
Most state legislatures have adopted a “Mini Randolph-Sheppard Act” which provides a similar right in state, county, city, and municipal buildings. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia now participate in the Randolph-Sheppard program.
Today’s Challenge – Identifying new customers who want to help a blind person succeed
Despite the success of the program over the years, unemployment among the blind remains at around 70%. With millions of blind and visually impaired persons nationally, the opportunity to help those who wish to help themselves has still not reached its full potential. Historically, serving the vending and food service needs of the program have been primarily limited to those federal and state facilities outlined in the original 1936 Act, which has limited the number of people able to be served.
The Business Enterprise Program today is now, just like its vendors, looking to move beyond government assistance and turning its focus to creating new jobs by partnering with private sector companies.
The BEP continues to answer the call to identify and train potential vendors with the equipment and skills they need for success, but future growth will depend on identifying new customers who want to make a real difference in the life of a blind or visually impaired person.
Our business standards are high and we are confident that we can identify customers that expect excellent service and see the social value of partnering with our vendors.