Student testifies in U.S. Senate on disability issues

UC Berkeley senior Ann Kwong delivered forceful testimony on behalf of people with disabilities at a recent hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Education, Labor and Pensions.

Student testifying

A recording of the U.S. Senate hearing is now available. Ann Kwong’s testimony begins at 20 minutes, and again at the 55-minute mark in response to a follow-up question. Watch or download a written transcript of her comments.

Kwong, who is visually impaired, spoke at the invitation of committee chair Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) during a Sept. 18 hearing titled “Fulfilling the Promise: Overcoming Persistent Barriers to Economic Self-Sufficiency for People with Disabilities.” She called for modification of federal policies on, among other things, federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility.

Kwong said SSI staff and others have often advised her to lower her expectations around employability, rather than “empowering me with knowledge and confidence.”

A psychology major and education minor, the UC Berkeley Gates scholar was selected to testify based on her performance in a summer internship at the U.S. Department of Defense, a placement facilitated by the campus’s Disabled Students Program.

Kwong credited UC Berkeley for fostering a sense of self-confidence and direction regarding her career potential, citing in particular DSP’s employment program and professional-development course.