U.S. Senate Hearing Spotlights Need for Fair Wages, Opportunities for People with Disabilities

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Chairman Bob Casey (D-PA) led a hearing on Thursday titled, “All Means All: Empowering People with Disabilities to Thrive in Careers and the Workplace.”

The hearing delved into effective strategies for hiring and retaining individuals with disabilities, focusing particularly on transitioning businesses away from a subminimum wage model—a practice that has long been criticized as discriminatory.

During the hearing, Chairman Casey promoted his bipartisan bill, the Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act (TCIEA). The proposed legislation aims to phase out the subminimum wage for people with disabilities, encouraging employers to transition to a model of competitive, fair wages for all workers, regardless of disability status.

Casey also released a pamphlet highlighting the positive impact of competitive integrated employment on Pennsylvanians with disabilities, showcasing the potential benefits of this transformative approach nationwide.

“Today’s hearing highlighted the successes of businesses that pay people with disabilities a fair wage and allow them to work alongside their peers without disabilities,” said Chairman Casey. “It’s shameful that in some places, people with disabilities are still being paid a subminimum wage. We have to phase out this discriminatory practice and provide people with disabilities the opportunity to work and advance in their jobs.”

Adding a personal perspective to the hearing was Erin Willman, the Founder and CEO of White Cane Coffee Company in Warren, PA. Blind since age 15, Willman offered a powerful testimony about her experiences and the importance of fair wages and treatment for all workers.

“The rhetoric that people don’t want to work anymore is simply untrue. People want to work, they just want to be treated and paid what they deserve,” said Willman. “I have always said that if you change one life you change the world. By passing the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act, you will be changing countless lives.”

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The hearing signals the urgent need to end wage discrimination against people with disabilities and establish a more inclusive and equitable workplace environment. By doing so, the U.S. can ensure that all citizens, regardless of their abilities, have the opportunity to thrive in their careers and contribute meaningfully to the nation’s economy.

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