[Ohio-talk] Fw: Some additional info about the whole commercialization of highway business -Article from Columbus Dispatch Ohio Columnists 2012 03 13

Deborah Kendrick dkkendrick at earthlink.net
Mon Apr 2 15:48:15 UTC 2012

Hello JW and all of NFB Ohio, 
As I've read these messages the past few days about Paul contacting Senator Brown, which was very cool indeed, I have felt a bit sheepish that my friends in NFB Ohio are possibly the last to know of my involvement in this potential legislative nightmare.  
Chris Danielsen contacted me (he's the public relations director at National Center for those who may not know) to see if I could help with media coverage of this potential disaster.  
My editor at the columbus Dispatch was very gracious in allowing me to write an extra column, and we kept in touch daily to get the timing right for running it.  It was a lot of work -- talking to people in the business enterprise program throughout ohio and several other states, as well as Senator Portman's press secretary and folks at National Center.  
The upshot was that we were able to run the column the very morning of the vote!  It ran March 13, a Tuesday morning, and Chris wrote me a wonderful email saying that every Senator had it in his hand when the time came to vote.  To quote Chris, the amendment was a "spectacular failure".  
It was such a thrill to be part of this little success story.  Of course, we need to be vigilant, in the event that it comes up again, but at any rate, I apologize for not sharing this process with the rest of you.  Chris dubbed me a roch star, by the way, which had me grinning from ear to ear.  I also received a considerable amount of mail from readers of the Dispatch who now know more about our blind entrepreneurs and will help us in future.  
You might know some of the people quoted, so I am including that March 13 column below for your information.  It was collected from our very own NEWSLINE!
----- Original Message ----- 
From: NFB-NEWSLINE Online 
To: Deborah Kendrick 
Sent: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 9:00 AM
Subject: Article from Columbus Dispatch Ohio Columnists 2012 03 13

Blind vendors fear effort to commercialize highways. Tuesday March 13, 2012 6:12 AM Jeff Tolle is living a version of the American dream. He has his own business and loves his job. His wife, Michelle, is his No. 1 employee. Family time consists of frequent trips to the Columbus Zoo, Kings Island and Cedar Point. Tolle takes his sons, ages 8 and 13, fishing whenever possible at one of two ponds near the family's Delaware home. They don't spend much time worrying about the fact that both boys have inherited Tolle's eye condition because life is good, and Tolle always has provided the family with a more than respectable income. Tolle is just one of thousands of blind Americans who have benefitted from the Randolph-Sheppard Act, a law whose 75th anniversary was recognized in January by a memorandum from President Barack Obama, encouraging more federal agencies to participate. If you've ever bought snacks or beverages in a post office, courthouse, military base or any other federal agency, chances are you've supported blind business owners. Tolle's business, like hundreds of other entrepreneurs in the program called Business Enterprise, consists of vending machines adjacent to rest areas on interstate and secondary highways. Under the law, priority is given to blind entrepreneurs in food-service facilities on government properties and, since 1982, vending machines at highway rest areas. About 40 enterprising individuals in Ohio service the machines that dispense coffee, beverages, snacks and ice cream at rest areas up and down our major and minor corridors. They buy the supplies, fill the machines, buy their own vehicles to transport goods and equipment, hire others to drive those vehicles, pay all the necessary taxes for self-employment and balance their own books. I spoke with several of those Ohio business owners last week, and there were definite refrains in every conversation. They love the work they do. They take pride in providing a service to the public. And they are terrified that an amendment to the surface-transportation bill, Senate Bill 1813, proposed by Sen. Rob Portman could have devastating consequences. If approved, the amendment would render the highways open country for commerce. Historically, commerce on interstate and secondary highways has been permitted only in the form of the vending machines operated by blind and visually impaired merchants. The National Federation of the Blind, the National Restaurant Association and the National Association of Truck Stop Operators are just a few of the many organizations representing both business and disability sectors who are vehemently opposed to any change in the law. Brendan Flanagan, a spokesman for the National Restaurant Association, said, "This legislation threatens private businesses of all sizes and their employees who rely on drivers exiting the highway in order to purchase food and conveniences. .?.?. It is anti-competitive and will kill jobs. Julie Russell, president of the Ohio Blind Vendors, says that even though her own business is a bank of machines at the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, the proposed legislation would have a negative impact on her and others whose businesses are not on the highways. Everyone in the program pays a percentage of profit into the statewide fund, operated by the Bureau of Services for the Visually Impaired, which is used for training, maintenance and repair. Because the rest-area businesses are among the most profitable, those operators pay a much larger share into the statewide pool, thus enabling smaller businesses such as Russell's to stay in operation. It sounds like we're just a small number of people," Tolle said, "but many of the vendors have other employees, both with and without disabilities, and then there are all those people who are hired on a different contract to clean and empty the trash. He is referring to the scores of people, many with developmental disabilities, who are hired for cleaning and general maintenance in the rest areas, whose jobs depend on the status quo. An unemployment rate of nearly 70 percent among people with disabilities is something of a national disgrace. The Randolph-Sheppard Act was a big step forward 75 years ago and is one of the smartest things we're doing to alter that reality. To create any law with the potential to displace hundreds of gainfully employed people with disabilities - people who are providing a service and taking pride in the work they do - well, it just doesn't make sense. Deborah Kendrick is a Cincinnati writer and advocate for people with disabilities. dkkendrick at earthlink.net This article is provided to you as a courtesy of NFB-NEWSLINE® Online for your sole use. The content of this E-mail is protected under copyright law, and is not to be distributed in any manner to others; infringement of our non-dissemination agreement is strictly prohibited. Allowing someone to have access to this material is in violation of the Terms of Use agreement that you electronically signed when you signed up for NFB-NEWSLINE® Online. Please do not forward this E-mail or its attachments to any other person or disseminate it in any manner. Thank you. The NFB-NEWSLINE® Team.

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