The job market is tough, and for some it is even tougher. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2017 only 18.7% of people with a disability were employed. This number highlights a growing problem that can lead to some people with developmental disabilities feeling like that their chances of holding a job are slim to none. The tendency for most businesses to pass up candidates with disabilities, or relegate them to menial tasks like cleaning and sweeping deprives these individuals from the sense of purpose and identify that comes working a meaningful job.
MSNBC’s Today’s article, by Rheana Murray, unpacks how Sara Mae Pratt took notice of this issue and acted by opening her own cafe. Puzzles Bakery and Cafe was created when Pratt was inspired by her sister with autism, Emily. Pratt realized that as her sister was approaching adulthood, that the opportunities available to her were nearly non-existent. This revelation is what pushed Pratt to open Puzzles, despite having no experience in food or beverage industry beforehand. Pratt operates Puzzles with the key mission statement of “acceptance”, and provides her employees with disabilities opportunities for work at all levels of the cafe. They can find themselves serving customers, taking orders, preparing food, cooking, and baking.
(Sara Mae Pratt and her sister Emily)
One employee of Puzzles, Andra Moore, talks about her previous experiences in the workforce as an adult with disabilities. She mentions that how at her previous jobs she felt that she was “always felt treated as less than”, and only given “the tasks nobody wants to do.” Puzzles provides an environment Andra Moore and others like her can find meaningful work and feel a sense of purpose while working alongside co-workers that one employee describes as being “like a family.”
Recognition that every person has their own unique worth, and the right to find purpose through their work, is a big step towards ensuring equality. Puzzles Bakery and Cafe sets a shining example of how businesses should treat and value their employees with disabilities.