Press Release 2022-32 Ninth Circuit Court Preserves Opportunities for Blind Sellers
Posted on Sep 2, 2022 in Latest news from the department, Press room
HONOLULU — In an opinion issued Aug. 30, 2022, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the Department of Human Services Division for Vocational Rehabilitation’s Ho`opono program. The Ho`opono program sued the Army for failing to provide business opportunities to blind people at Schofield Barracks under the Randolph-Sheppard Act, a federal law passed to ensure that such business opportunities would be available. The unanimous decision by a panel of three judges preserves opportunities for small businesses owned and operated by blind people.
The Randolph-Sheppard Act requires federal programs, including the military, to give blind and visually impaired participants preference in contracting when the federal program needs a vending machine or cafeteria contract. The Ho`opono program offers comprehensive and specialized services for the blind and visually impaired. These services include supporting people who are blind or visually impaired who own and operate vending machines and cafeterias in accordance with the Randolph-Sheppard Act.
For many years, a blind salesman from the Ho`opono program ran the cafeteria at Schofield Barracks. In 2017, the military decided to take that opportunity away from the blind seller and give it to another small business. The Ho`opono program filed a federal lawsuit, and the Ninth Circuit agreed that the military had no authority to deny the blind vendor the ability to operate the cafeteria.
Special Assistant Attorneys General Dan Edwards and Ryan Goellner were the lead attorneys representing Ho`opono with the Department of the Attorney General. “The special deputies in this case have invaluable expertise in military contracts,” Attorney General Holly Shikada said. “They helped us get much-needed clarification in this area. The court ruling is an important affirmation for Ho`opono and similar blind vendor programs nationwide, that providing economic advancement opportunities for the blind and visually impaired is not just the right thing. to do, but a requirement of federal law. “
Lea Dias, administrator of the Ho`opono program, reacted to the decision by saying, “This victory brings us one step closer to the possibility of a blind businessman achieving the American dream of economic independence through perseverance and to hard work. We deeply appreciate the support, guidance and hard work of our legal team. »
The military can seek to appeal the decision to a full Ninth Circuit panel or to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A link to the decision is available here.
For more information contact:
Special Assistant to the Attorney General
E-mail: [email protected]
The Web: http://ag.hawaii.gov
Public Information Officer
Department of Social Services
E-mail: [email protected]