State Must Pay Snubbed Blind Vendors
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 2, 2003
CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE--A federal judge has ruled that the state should pay damages to a group of blind vending machine operators because they were not given priority for state rest area contracts, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
The vendors sued after the state built a number of new rest areas along interstate highways, and granted contracts with a private company.
Federal law encourages licensed blind people to manage vending machines on federal property. New Hampshire law requires those vendors be given priority on state property.
U.S. District Judge Steven McAuliffe ruled last Friday that the state had not given blind vendors the chance to manage machines at the new rest areas before going to other companies, as far back as 1998.
The state argued that it allowed blind vendors to bid on the contracts right along with other vendors. If they presented a lower or matched bid, they would have been awarded the contracts.
The blind vendors argued that "priority" meant the state should have reviewed their bids before offering contracts to private companies.
McAuliffe ruled the group is entitled to commissions ranging from 75 to 100 percent from rest area projects. In his decision, McAuliffe wrote that state officials ignored the priority system to enhance the general fund "at the expense of blind vendors."
"What has occurred here is nothing less than the states shunting aside the disabled citizens Congress intended to benefit in order to maximize its own general fund," he wrote.