Vendors of America®

Blind Businessmen and Businesswomen
Building a Better America

Member of
American Council of the Blind, Together for a bright future

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Purpose of the Organization
Why We Exist

Purpose of the Organization

The purpose of this national organization is to bring together blind persons engaged in the operation of vending facilities, and individuals and groups supporting the goals and objectives of this organization, its members, and the Randolph-Sheppard vending facility program, in order to:

  1. Provide a continuing forum for the expression of the views of licensed blind vendors, trainees, retired blind vendors, and blind employees participating in, or affected by the Randolph-Sheppard vending facility program
  2. Protect the interests of blind persons engaged in the operation of vending facilities under the Randolph-Sheppard program
  3. Promote the expansion and improvement of the Randolph-Sheppard program and the economic benefits and employment opportunities for blind vendors throughout the United States; and
  4. Assist in promoting the purposes of the American Council of the Blind through affiliation with that organization.

RSVA® provides the strength and influence of a national organization of blind persons engaged in the operation of the Business Enterprise Program. We help to promote the general welfare of blind vendors nationwide who are engaged in the operating of vending machine operations, cafeterias, military troop dining contracts, snack bars, gift shops and other retail businesses. We provide the forum for consideration of issues affecting licensed blind managers in the Randolph-Sheppard program. In addition, we stimulate the development of practical, profitable self-help activities by working for improvement in the education and training courses available to blind vendors /managers and through the negotiation of national buying contracts with major food, beverage and snack manufacturers and distributors. RSVA® provides technical and legal support to vendors/managers to ensure that rights granted to them are not limited or voided by actions of property managers or State Licensing Agencies.

RSVA®, with support from the ACB, monitors actions of legislative and regulatory bodies that might affect the lives and businesses of blind vendors. RSVA® believes in promoting a positive image of blind vendors/managers as hard working, tax paying citizens who are contributing to the economy of the communities where they work.


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Why We Exist

RSVA®'s Plan of Action

Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America (RSVA®) is a nonprofit membership organization whose members are blind vendors, their employees, and others interested in the Randolph-Sheppard Program (RSP). The mission is to maximize the potential and implementation of the Randolph-Sheppard Act. To accomplish this, RSVA® works to improve advocacy on behalf of blind vendors, encourage more involvement of vendors through a full and active participation process, and participate in the leadership of state programs in order to promote economic stability. RSVA® insists that ongoing education and training practices be sufficient to provide the best upward mobility possible for vendors. RSVA® works to strengthen and create a partnership with all State Licensing Agencies (SLA), facility management, and private and government administrations. In short, RSVA®'s mission is to protect, promote and prosper the livelihood of vendors and would be vendors across the country.

The main goals of this organization are: To assist vendors by planning annual seminars, by disseminating information through its quarterly publication, by helping members advocate for the Randolph-Sheppard Program and other blindness related issues, by providing a support network for blind businessmen and businesswomen, and by allowing ongoing discussion of issues of interest to vendors. For these purposes, we have a variety of resources at our disposal. We have a national office, which facilitates information sharing and provides a toll free number for members to contact when necessary. We also publish a quarterly magazine called “The Vendorscope”, which provides important information regarding rebates, seminars, legislation, different state issues, and affiliate information. We have a website and list serve for members to keep in touch on a more regular basis. To make our organization a vital tool and resource for members, we need good working committees, real coordination within and between committees, more communication within the membership, and strategies to direct the organization as a whole. We need ongoing efforts in legislation, planning, membership growth, publications, finance and budget, public relations, legal assistance, convention programming, and fund-raising (ways and means).

Durward McDaniel founded the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America organization an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind, (ACB) because he felt that the Randolph-Sheppard Program was the single most successful employment program for the blind. The publication of the history of RSVA® “Trail of the Advocate” outlines some of our major accomplishments. In the past, RSVA® has tried to be a resource for state agencies and others interested in furthering the program. We also advocated to pass the Kennelly legislation in 1984 and promoted the idea of roadside rest areas. “The Call for Action”, written as a joint effort by ACB and RSVA®, was an effort to relay our main objectives for the RSP as a whole. The Training Conference held in New Orleans in 1998 was a corroborative effort between Vendors and Administrators. Other great successes for RSVA® were the victory in 2001-the NISH lawsuit, working with the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) to achieve the revised active participation definition, and better relations with ACB. Another long-term success is the establishment and maintenance of the national contract with Pepsi started in 1970, for volume buying and a rebate program. RSVA® was the first organization to advocate for the RSP to handle troop feeding on military bases in 1994.

Even though RSVA® has had its successes, there are current realities and trends with an impact on the Randolph-Sheppard Program. Technology is constantly changing. It is difficult to provide all the necessary tools for all types of operations including point of sale equipment, updated software, hardware, and proper phone hook-ups. State Licensing Agencies (SLA) don’t have enough staff or the necessary business focus. The continuing apathy of the vendor community and noninvolvement of many vendors in committees or organizations of vendors is a concern of RSVA®. Improvement of the RSP needs the participation of all interested agencies and blind persons. Expansion of the program will only occur if an effort is made with federal, state, local and private facilities. Mini RS Acts must be used to get a foot in the door. Declining budgets, fewer vendors trained for food courts and specialized facilities, elimination of cafeterias, and income variance are all constant problems which need RSVA®'s attention. Troop dining has created more set-aside funds as well as more animosity between SLA's and Vendor's. Complacency exists among staff members in many programs. Agencies and staff need to see vending locations as a positive work environment, in order to build the overall image of the program.

RSVA® should try to find methods to raise the levels of expectation for vendors and staff and urge the use of better or updated equipment. Producing more creative means of accountability and ways of working together are necessary as well as proper use of 110 monies and unassigned vending receipts. Committees and Vendors in general need to be educated in RS laws. Consolidating or subcontracting small or unassigned facilities is an option to be fully explored. Partnering with private food service or similar companies and publicizing these successes widely would illustrate the viability of these and other possible alternatives. Diversification of the RSP is imperative for growth in the future.

Vendors must be encouraged to portray themselves more positively--self-satisfaction versus dependency. In order to exemplify this positive role model, vendors should give back to their community by hiring other disabled persons, providing world-class service, and modeling good customer and employee relations. Vendors should be urged to assist other vendors. Mandatory attendance should be considered for all upward mobility training opportunities.


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