Throughout American history, many groups have been oppressed due to their identity. But as history moves forward, diversity is becoming widely accepted—Pride Month celebrates diversity within sexuality, Black History Month celebrates racial diversity and accomplishments of Black Americans and Jewish Heritage Month celebrates religious diversity and the fight against anti-Semitism. Yet, one type of diversity still has a lot of stigma surrounding it. Neurodiversity. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statics, in 2019, only 19.3% of adults with disabilities were employed. In contrast, the average unemployment rate in the United States was around 3.5% in 2019. This means that the unemployment rate of individuals with disabilities is 23 times higher than the average United States employment rate.
Whole Latte Love Café, a coffee shop non-profit organization based in North Canton, Ohio, is trying to combat this drastic inequality in unemployment. Much like Integrate for Good, Whole Latte Love Café sees the untapped talent in individuals with disabilities and helps provide an avenue into the workforce. Their mission is simple. They hire adults with disabilities 18 years or older who have graduated high school to work in their coffee shop for up to two years. During that time, they receive paid vocational training where they gain real work experience that can be applied to future jobs. This work experience includes learning customer service skills, problem solving, task completion, motor development and how to effectively communicate with supervisors and coworkers. Additionally, they gain self-advocacy skills, allowing them to be more independent and integrated within the community.
Not only does Whole Latte Love Café help develop working experience through having employees work in the café, they work 1:1 with employees to help develop a plan for after their two-year contract with the café. Through career discovery—a 6-to-12-week program, employees are encouraged to explore their vocational themes of interest, preferences, strengths and strategies to success. They learn about types of jobs that might interest them and visit with potential employers. From there, each individual has a career profile, which summarizes everything learned in the career discovery process and recommends next steps for this individual. They can then use their career profile to explore a career of choosing. Individuals are offered job shadowing at potential new jobs, and even given the opportunity to preform actual job duties to determine whether or not they enjoy this profession
Whole Latte Love Café is breaking barriers surrounding neurodiversity by providing individuals with disabilities an opportunity to showcase their talents and challenging society to see them as more than their autism or down syndrome. Their vision of the future is one that we at Integrate for Good wish to see as well—a world where no matter what one’s ability is, everyone is welcomed into the work force and able to share their talents and unique abilities with the community.
To learn more about Whole Latte Love Café, visit their website at https://wholelattelovecafe.org
Whole Latte Love Café