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Subcommittee on Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Workforce Development Holds Hearing Focusing on Impact of Entrepreneurs and Employees with Disabilities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Marc Molinaro (R-NY), Chairman of the Small Business Subcommittee on Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Workforce Development, held a hearing titled “Pathways to Success: Supporting Entrepreneurs and Employees with Disabilities.” Subcommittee Chairman Molinaro issued the following statement after the hearing:

“Nearly 80% of individuals with intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities are unemployed. It’s an unacceptable stat. I started the ‘Think DIFFERENTLY’ initiative to break down barriers so every person of every ability is able to access meaningful employment and entrepreneurial opportunities,” said Subcommittee Chairman Molinaro. “Iva Walsh is leading by example and developed a tremendous model for creating employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities at her café, Maeve’s Place. I was honored to have Iva, the President of Autism Speaks, and the owner of Cody Clark Magic share their expertise and inspiring work with our committee.”


Below are some key excerpts from today’s hearing:

Chairman Molinaro: “Ms. Walsh it has been noted 20 percent of those with disabilities are employed, meaning that 80 percent are unemployed and it's simply inexcusable. As a society, could you speak to some of the obstacles that you confronted in growing your business? Ms. Walsh: “Everybody knows that there is an extreme shortage of employees, but the people with all different kinds of disabilities are pretty much lined up. They all that I have experienced would love to have a job. Now, for us, it's a little bit difficult transportation getting to us. It is a little bit of an issue when I'm hiring people to my coffee shop people with disabilities, they get a different it's a little bit different hiring process. I'm not going to ask this is what I need you to do. But my question is what you are at best what you can do versus the best thing that you do. And then we go from there. People without disabilities. The question for us that I would ask is, can you work shoulder to shoulder with somebody with all different kinds of disability and ability? A lot of people might be uncomfortable and if they are I said, please voice out whatever it is and let's see if we can help you cross the bridge.”

Chairman Williams: “Ms. Walsh some of the most successful American businesses were built around a need that a company's founder saw in the market. Maeve’s Place is no exception. You saw a need for employment opportunities for people with disabilities and built your company around that with your daughter in mind. So can you please tell the committee about how working with Maeve’s Place has benefited your daughter and all the people that you employ, both those with disabilities and those without?” Ms. Walsh: “Maeve she learned really how to navigate herself in a community of her peers, how to act properly in social settings. And also, she learned the benefit of making her own money. She loves opening her wallet and seeing money in there. And then if she doesn't see money in her wallet, she said, I have to go back to work. So, I mean, and until then, you know, learning this in school and pretending to play, so to speak. How do you work? What do you do? That really didn't click, really being in a job place that and doing a real thing that really made a huge difference for her with other employees with that we employ, or they came through our store through last couple of years. It's the same thing, gives tremendous self-confidence, allows you to really blossom and the limitations limits are sky high.”

Rep. Ellzey: “One of the barriers individuals with disabilities face is bias from employers in the hiring process. Often education and training programs for individuals with disabilities are done in isolation and as a result, individuals responsible for hiring don't understand the idiosyncrasies of individuals with disabilities and often misinterpret them. And as a veteran myself, that sounds like a very familiar refrain from a very large and willing group of people who want to work hard. Both veterans and the folks that we're talking about today. And they're an untapped resource for this country. I'd like to start with Mr. Wargo. If kids with disabilities like your sons are in school for from until sometimes until 21, what's one thing in our limited time that K through 12 could do better to integrate and prepare young folks for employment?” Mr. Wargo: “Thanks for your question. I think that the one thing that would make a material difference would be to start vocational rehabilitation earlier. Vocational rehabilitation. And we work closely with numerous VR systems through our work. But they're underfunded, they're under-resourced. And depending on the you know, depending on the area of the country, it could be a real it can be a real desert, a real pocket that's starting early in the in the high school years, making it part of a student and a young individual's IEP and trying to map out that destination together. VR can be a very, very important part of that.”