Sam was told he would never be employable. But a chance connection at a camp proved those early assumptions wrong.
Sam, 17, has autism and immediately stood out to Chris, who would be his future manager at Starbucks.
“He told me one of his dreams was that he wanted to be a barista and I tried to make that happen,” Chris told Ellen DeGeneres on her talk show.
Sam thought he was coming into the Toronto store for a formal interview, but Chris told him he already got the job. “In that moment my life changed – my whole world changed,” Sam said.
While he makes customers’ drinks, Sam dances behind the counter to help control his movement disorder and focus on his work. A video of his dance moves went viral and was viewed more than 66 million times.
Chris told Ellen he’s seen Sam become more outgoing and be able to work independently since he started at Starbucks. And Sam credits Chris giving him a chance when others wouldn’t.
“He’s an amazing boss, and he’s also a really, really good friend and I wouldn’t give him up for anything” Sam said.
“If it takes an able-bodied person 30 steps to get to his dream and it takes me 90, I’m still going to get there just as fast as they’re going to get to their dream,” says Chef Aleem Syed.
One of those steps is being the proud owner of the first fully wheelchair accessible food truck in North America and, likely, the world.
The Holy Grill (named for that future restaurant) features a ramp coming out from under the back door and a wider passage, allowing the 33-year-old chef to turn his wheelchair 360 degrees. The truck has lower surfaces for easier access and space for his chair next to the driver’s seat.
“In the beginning it was a little shocking like it would be for anyone’s life,” he says, “but after that it’s like, what are you going to do, sit at home and cry or are you going to make something of yourself?”
For years, James Gower followed the advice of career advisers who told him to hide his disability on job applications. He thought disclosing his disability was akin to pointing out his weaknesses.
“My biggest fear when applying for graduate roles was that my disability would mean I’d be phased out or not considered to be up to standard,” Gower wrote. “It’s an incredibly difficult position to be in. How do I accurately, yet positively, portray my disability? When, if at all, do I disclose my disability to my potential employer? And, how can I be sure my disability doesn’t affect my ability to do my job, especially once I’ve been hired and I’m in the working environment for real?”
By not disclosing his disability, Gower, who has cerebral palsy, was hiding his true self. And eventually he realized the advice he was following for years was wrong.
“It quickly became apparent that the sooner I was open about my disability, the sooner the employer could consider reasonable adjustments and see past my potential disadvantages,” he wrote.
“My disability has started to enable me to make a difference. Working for a multinational firm I’ve been able to promote disability awareness on a larger scale. There is still a long way to go. Disability is such a broad definition, and a disability can affect each person in such a variety of ways, but that, in my view, is even more reason to continue to broadcast the best things about disability.”
“It is our responsibility and commitment to help solve the problems of our society, complementing the government’s efforts. The I’M IN TO HIRE campaign is challenging all of us around the world to open our minds and consider people with intellectual and developmental disabilities as qualified, dependable, employable candidates. These individuals are dedicated, skilled workers and it is clear that their involvement in the economic activity is relevant for all of society.”
This is a wonderful idea from Canada for how to find creative ways to host employment training for people with disabilities.
Common Ground Cooperative is a local non-profit that provides social enterprise and empowered employment opportunities to people with developmental disabilities. One of the participants is The Coffee Shed – a coffee shop run by adults with developmental disabilities headquartered in Surrey Place Centre near Queen’s Park.
Last month, The Coffee Shed launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund a barista training program inside their premises. Called Made by Mavericks, the training program was created by Gerald Patrick Fantone, a job coach at Common Ground.
“I always heard from clients who’ve had employment that although they’re getting paid minimum wage and they get to work in a competitive environment, a lot of things they did were not very fulfilling,” Fantone says. “Some of them were buggy boys, ticket agents or dishwashers, so I thought, why not create something trade specific and something they can be proud of doing.”