One restaurant is doing its bit to tackle the stigma of disabilities in the workplace by hiring young people with autism, exclusively.
Disabled people are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people. But Davey Dukes Diner is offering autistic young adults, and those with learning disabilities, a haven from the judgemental mainstream hiring systems which consistently shun them.
Daniel and his fellow employees told UNILAD what it’s like to work at the diner:
Touching on the spectrum of autism, Daniel told UNILAD ‘autism is something everyone has’, adding behind the disability ‘there’s still that person that tries hard’ and demonstrates ‘determination’ to succeed in the working environment.
Daniel is employed in the kitchens, helping with the food preparation and cooking at Davey Dukes Diner, which was set up by The St Camillus Care group.
Of his experience, Daniel said:
It’s really helped us. It’s inspired us. It’s helped my confidence. It really makes me enjoy what I’m doing and try my hardest with everything I do.
Manager Holly Kelleher told UNILAD:
Ideally you want people with disabilities employed in the mainstream environment. You want people just to be able to apply for a job and get a job based on whether or not they can do the job.
I think it would be frowned upon in this day and age to judge people on gender, race or sexual preference, but it still seems acceptable to judge people on disability.
The second you walk into a room someone makes a judgement on what you can and can’t do before you even open your mouth.
Kelleher explained this issue arises ‘especially with people with autism because it’s such a misunderstood condition’.
Elaborating to debunk the damaging stereotypes, Kelleher stated:
It’s quite possible to have autism and not have a learning disability. Some people with autism are very, very bright and very good workers.
Sam, who joined The Vault’s staff just weeks ago, chimed in:
It’s not that any of us are work shy. We’ve all got different struggles that alienate us from what we want to do a lot of the time.
But since starting here, it’s got better. I’ve only been here a few weeks and it’s massively improved my life. It makes me feel a lot happier and a lot more confident.
Kelleher explained the ethos of The Vault, continuing:
The idea of The Vault is that people come here to study and they learn how to do their job, but because we also need staff to provide everything we provide, we employ them at the end of their training.
The brilliant thing about here is there’s a zero rejection policy. Everyone comes in and we find out what they can do and we bring out their potential.
Sharing her hopes for the future, Kelleher said:
We would like somewhere like The Vault in every town and city, so anyone with a disability can come somewhere like this and train in a commercially viable environment.
They can get a paid job and learn to do all these things, and in a couple of years, they can move onto a mainstream employer.
That would be the dream, she said, until a time when employers learn to hire people with disabilities based on their wide and varied skill sets, rather than their medical diagnoses.
That time can’t come soon enough.
For advice on getting employment if you have a registered disability, visit Gov.uk.