In July, Ben Wright, co-founder of Bitty & Beau’s Coffee, traveled to Washington DC to testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging, where he advocated for competitive, integrated employment and the abolishment of sub-minimum wages for people with disabilities. The title of the hearing was “Supporting Economic Stability and Self-Sufficiency as Americans with Disabilities and Their Families Age.”
“There are some archaic laws on the books that allow employers to pay sub-minimum wages to employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Amy Wright, Ben’s wife and co-founder of Bitty & Beau's, a Wilmington-based coffee shop that employs people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
In his testimony, Ben Wright stated, “If the goal of this hearing is to support economic stability and self-sufficiency as Americans with disabilities and their families age, efforts such as ABLE [the ABLE act, the ABLE to Work Act, and the ABLE Financial Planning Act] and addressing policies that inhibit work for people with disabilities are important. But we must also resolve to help people WITHOUT disabilities see people WITH disabilities, like my children, Bitty and Beau, as worthy of that charge.”
Last week, U.S. Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, who represent North Carolina, along with U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, visited Bitty & Beau’s Coffee to see firsthand the importance of Wright’s testimony.
“We talked about what we do, and how we can encourage other businesses on a national level to create employment opportunities for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” Amy Wright said.
Following the visit, Acosta called for a film crew to come in an film a short video at Bitty and Beau’s that will be shared on the US Department of Labor website as a means to educate other businesses. Amy Wright said the video is currently in production and should be up on the website before the end of the month.
“October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month so it’s the perfect time have the video up on the website,” Wright said.
Bitty and Beau’s plans to open its third location in Savannah, GA the first week in December.
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