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2006/2007 Year in Review

By Charles Glaser, RSVA President,
Summer, 2007

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This last year was an exciting year for RSVA and Randolph/Sheppard.  We started the year with some new and energetic committee chairs.  We realized the need for Randolph/Sheppard to have a united front.  We grew our affiliate base.  We are now participating with Federal agencies to insure the future of our program.  And, we are in the planning stages for the best Sagebrush ever.

RSVA is so fortunate to have people step up and take responsibility.  The new publications committee has led the way and is improving the “Vendorscope” with every issue.  The committee also created a new RSVA brochure for marketing our program.  As if that wasn’t enough they have completely redesigned our website with much added information.  Ways and Means was also raised to a new level.  Auctions that offered a trip to Hawaii including airfare and other great items were very successful and added much needed revenue to our organization.
As many of you know this was a year of studies, investigations, audits and any other term you would choose to use for various federal agencies to examine the Randolph/Sheppard Program.  There were too many fronts for any one organization to defend.  RSVA along with other organizations realized that we needed a Washington D.C. presence dedicated solely to Randolph/Sheppard.  The Blind Entrepreneur’s Alliance was organized and entered into a contract with Catriona McDonald of Linchpin Strategies to coordinate our efforts to protect and improve Randolph/Sheppard.

Two new affiliates joined forces with RSVA this year.  We welcome the supporters of the BE programs in Massachusetts and Alaska.  I had the great pleasure of visiting both states this year.  You talk about culture shock well that’s an understatement.  Boston is a fast paced college town.  The Wall Street like skyscrapers soar over the historic home of the banking and insurance industries.  Steeped in American history Boston is also ready for the Jetsons.  Now here comes the culture shock.  When you visit Alaska you need to take four things: a fishing rod, hiking boots, binoculars and the desire to view the most majestic scenery you could ever imagine.  Bald eagles overhead, blue glaciers in front of you and Mt. McKinley in the background.  Where do you see that kind of stuff?  Alaska.  I even watched a midnight baseball game outdoors with no lights.  Boston, Massachusetts and Anchorage, Alaska have two dramatically different cultures but share the same goal, employment for blind people in the Randolph/Sheppard Program.

Back in Washington, it is no secret that the Department of Education failed miserably in it’s representation of the Randolph/Sheppard Act when negotiating with the Department of Defense and the Presidents committee on employment of the blind and severely disabled in the development of the joint committee report.  Along with giving the impression that the negotiators were clueless it appears that they didn’t even take advantage of their in house RSA resources.  

So what ever happened to RSA?  Well although it has been dramatically downsized the agency still recognizes its responsibility to Randolph/Sheppard and maybe the afore mentioned shortcoming will turn out to be a blessing in disguise.  Most notably, the staff of RSA is now communicating with the stakeholders in the Randolph/Sheppard Program.  They have created a list serve.  They are disseminating information and most notably they have created a committee, on which I serve, to develop goals and performance measures for BE programs nationwide.  Hopefully these new initiatives represent a change in the level of commitment the Department of Education has in supporting Randolph/Sheppard.

OK, the best for last.  As of the end of the 2006 National Training Conference for Blind Vendors RSVA accepted full responsibility for the future of what we will call “Sagebrush” February 4th – 8th 2008 at the Golden Nugget Hotel in Las Vegas.  Although RSVA has been a long time sponsor we will now dedicate our full resources to the success of this event.  Our board and committees are already hard at work developing entertaining, educational, informational and motivational programming for both state agency staff and vendors alike.  Our social events will be a sight to behold.

This is just a sampling of the work going on in front of and behind the scenes.  RSVA is representative of its membership and will continue to work to preserve, protect and expand the Randolph/Sheppard Program wherever possible.


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