Baltimore Co. Council hears appeal to keep blind vendor


A group of about 20 blind people went before the Baltimore County Council last night to ask that Bill Ramsey, a 52-year-old blind vendor, not be forced out of his business of operating a snack and toiletry shop in the county's detention center in Towson.

The administration of County Executive Roger B. Hayden is considering a proposal to hire another contractor -- who is not blind -- to run the stand in exchange for a percentage of the profits.

"Where is it going to stop?" asked Alfred Hill, who is legally blind and operates a similar stand at the Social Security Administration in Woodlawn.

Sharon Maneki, president of the Maryland chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, told the council that replacing Mr. Ramsey with another private contractor who is promising to pay the county part of his profits would "set a dangerous precedent, and will weaken the program for the blind."

James Gashel, another federation officer, said unemployment runs around 70 percent among the blind, and that 4,000 blind vendors compose the largest single employment group among people with the disability nationally. The vendors operate in many public buildings under a 1936 federal law that created the blind vendors program.

"He's not just another contract vendor," Mr. Gashel said of Mr. Ramsey.

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