By Brandon Smith
The visually impaired have a diamond in their employment portfolio. It is the Randolph Sheppard program, also known as the Business Enterprise Program (BEP).
This employment option gives an individual who is blind the experience of being self-employed and earning a decent living. BEP is a vending program. Individuals who choose to participate will either work in a snack stand setting, where they prepare and serve food to customers. Or as vending machine operators. This line of work may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But it is a great opportunity to have available.
I am in full support of the idea of self-employment for anyone, but especially for the visually impaired. Self-employment offers the blind an opportunity to earn more than they likely will ever make working a standard 9 to 5 job. It also allows for a schedule that is less rigid, which means less dependency on paratransit services.
Obviously, there are advantages and disadvantages to any employment option. Being self-employed can be a real challenge. The full weight of the business and its many decisions fall on the business owner’s shoulders. But if a person can find a way to support themselves, doing something that they’re passionate about, I feel the rewards can be numerous. This especially applies to the disabled community.
Vocational rehabilitation agencies should invest more time and money into researching other self-employment options for those who are visually impaired.