Why this US mom wants to hire people with disabilities

At Maeve’s Place, employees with disabilities are given a chance to earn a living. Photo: Instagram/iva.walsh

Iva Walsh is headed to Washington DC in the United States, but not for any rally or to pitch any sort of political point of view.

Instead, the New York resident, whose daughter has Down syndrome, is set to testify before a congressional panel on the benefits to small businesses hiring people with intellectual disabilities.

Walsh, the owner of Mauve’s Place in Phoenicia, New York, does employ the disabled and has begun training sessions at the coffee shop. Walsh’s daughter, whom the shop is named after, works there.

Walsh was invited by US Representative Marc Molinaro, who is the father of a child on the autism spectrum, to testify about her experience, both the benefits and roadblocks standing in the way of hiring people with intellectual and other disabilities.

Employment empowers individuals with disabilities, fostering independence and financial stability. Photo: 123rf.comEmployment empowers individuals with disabilities, fostering independence and financial stability. Photo: 123rf.com

Molinaro, US House Small Business Subcommittee on Entrepreneurship and Workforce Development chairman, said the hearing will explore “how Congress can help break down employment and entrepreneurial barriers for individuals with intellectual, development, and physical disabilities.”

“Walsh was motivated by her daughter Maeve’s experience with Down syndrome to open a coffee shop in 2018, with the goal of providing a safe learning environment for her daughter once she aged out of school,” Molinaro said.

“Today, the business works with the Arc Greater Hudson Valley, New York to provide employment opportunities to individuals with disabilities.”

“Nearly 80% of individuals with intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities are unemployed,” the congressman added.

“It’s a stunning stat and unacceptable. We need to ‘Think Differently’ and break down barriers so every person of every ability is able to access meaningful employment and entrepreneurial opportunities. Walsh developed a tremendous model with Maeve’s Place and I’m excited to have her share her expertise in Washington.”

People with disabilities can acquire job skills through tailored training programs that focus on their strengths and abilities. People with disabilities can acquire job skills through tailored training programs that focus on their strengths and abilities.

Walsh said she has plenty to relate at the hearing. She said that topics she will touch on include transportation shortfalls; the need for businesses to employ job coaches; the fact that the disabled are more than willing to work; small businesses are hurting for staff; internship programs; more outreach to schools; and less apprehension in hiring the disabled, among other things.

“They can do the job,” said Walsh, who added that her employees use the cash register. “One has to be given the opportunity. If you are not going to get an opportunity, you can’t show anyone that you can actually run in a race.”

Businesses benefit in many ways by hiring the disabled, she said.

“You get loyal, eager and very happy employees... tremendous enthusiasm,” said Walsh. “There are so many doors to be opened, they could be opened. We have the keys, we just don’t know which key fits what door.”

Walsh said she hopes her testimony will mean acceptance like it has at Maeve’s Place.

“Our dream is to provide employment opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and all different abilities.

“We are a part of the culture where diversity is not just appreciated, it’s celebrated. With the proper reforms, advocating for knowledge on the situation, and persistence from small businesses, I believe we can help every working age person with intellectual and developmental disabilities find meaningful employment.” – Daily Freeman/Tribune News Service

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