GOOD NEWS
09/22/2016 03:10 pm ET Updated Sep 23, 2016

This Cafe Makes It A Point To Hire Workers With Autism

“To be able to work here and get treated with respect really changes my life."

This establishment is cooking up a culture of inclusivity. 

The Cause Cafe, a coffee shop in Long island, New York, hires and provides training to people with disabilities. In fact, eight of its 15 employees are on the autism spectrum.

Stacy Wohl, whose son and daughter have severe autism, opened the shop back in April to help give job opportunities to her children and others who have disabilities.

“Just because they have a disability doesn’t mean they can’t do the same things we do,” the single mother told Today.com. “They want to be productive, they want to be happy, they want to feel fulfilled, they want to be in society and feel good about themselves.”

For those with disabilities, a steady job isn’t always easy to come by. In 2015, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 10.7 percent ― about twice that for people without disabilities, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

And for people with autism, there’s little support and few opportunities available to them after they turn 21, when they age out of the public school system, Wohl told The New York Times. 

“It’s called ‘falling off the cliff,’” the mom explained to the paper. “At 22, there’s no services.”

Her business not only gives people with disabilities meaningful work, but also aims to prove that they can be productive members of society and flourish with proper support. 

At the French-themed cafe, employees bus tables and communicate with customers. Others work in the kitchen preparing or cooking food, the Times mentioned. 

“The main thing is to get these people job training and get them out of the house and make them feel useful,” Dr. Cheryl Mendelsohn, a psychologist and the cafe’s director of training, told the Times.

Mendelsohn works with the employees on developing their social skills, along with teaching them restaurant procedures.

“These are some of the hardest working people I’ve ever seen,” she said, per the Times.

Many of the employees who have disabilities say that working at the cafe has had a huge effect on their lives. 

Cody Stillwagon, who has a culinary degree, was often given dish-washing jobs in the past, according to the Times. Now, he’s in the kitchen doing what he loves. 

“To be able to work here and get treated with respect really changes my life, because I was ready to give up on my dream of cooking after I left the other restaurants,” he told Today.com.

Customers, Wohl said, play an important part in making this impact on the employees’ lives. 

“You can go anywhere and get a cup of coffee,” she told News 12 Long Island. “When you come here and get a cup of coffee, you are helping to change someone’s life.”

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