New York Coffee Shop Creates a Culture of Opportunity by Hiring These Unlikely Employees

A coffee shop in Long Island, New York, is brewing up a culture of inclusivity.

For those with disabilities and autism, there’s often limited opportunity to work and be an active member of society—until now.

The Cause Cafe hires people with disabilities and trains them in everything from barista skills to people skills. Eight of the coffee shop’s 15 current employees are on the Autism spectrum.

Owner, Stacy Wohl, opened The Cause Cafe back in April to help give job opportunities to both her son and daughter who have severe autism, as well as others who have a range of 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.”

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A steady job is not typically easy to come by for those with disabilities. In 2015, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 10.7 percent—almost twice that of people without. Wohl told The New York Times that for people with autism in particular, there is little support and very few opportunities available after they turn 21, which is when they age out of the public school system.

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

The goal behind her business is to give people with disabilities meaningful work, and prove that they can be productive members of society. With proper support, she believes her employees can flourish.

The French-themed Cause Cafe has employees who bus tables and converse with customers, while others work in the kitchen preparing food or drinks.

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“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, explains. 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.

Many of the employees who have disabilities say that working at the establishment has had a tremendous effect on their lives. Whether it’s the training they receive, or the interaction with customers, The Cause Cafe is allowing people with disabilities to work and earn a living like everyone else.

“You can go anywhere and get a cup of coffee,” Whol said. “When you come here and get a cup of coffee, you are helping to change someone’s life.”

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Bri Lamm
Bri is an outgoing introvert with a heart that beats for adventure. She lives to serve the Lord, experience the world, and eat macaroni and cheese in between capturing life’s greatest moments on one of her favorite cameras.

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