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What's better than your first cup of coffee for the day? Maybe your first paycheck, or even the thrill of landing your first job. It's no wonder that a video of Joe Sullivan receiving his first paycheck and the infectious joy of his response has gone viral.
Sullivan was born with Down syndrome and was hired by Bitty and Beau's Coffee Shop in Melrose, Massachusetts, this past summer. But before getting his first gig as a “caller” for coffee orders, Sullivan visited the shop on an almost weekly basis with his mom. He was eventually given a ‘future employee' pin by the shop, and, according to his mother, he was “smitten,” and wanted in immediately.
Sullivan worked his first shift at the end of July. He has a unique way of calling customers' orders; rather than saying their names, he calls out the playing card that matches each customer's order. It's a far better method for anyone with communication difficulties.
After two weeks, Sullivan was handed his first paycheck, and the spontaneous delight that burst forth from him as he received the check was captured on video. “Joe's on cloud 9—he got his first paycheck!” the caption to the video reads. According to his mother, Joe was so ecstatic about the whole thing. “He wasn’t concerned with how much it was for. He loves going there to work.” Joe is saving his money and plans to do some holiday shopping with his first earnings.
People around the world are supporting Joe and his joy through their comments and responses to the video. There is also overwhelming support and enthusiasm for Bitty and Beau's inclusion policy, and their determination to offer employment without discrimination. As employers, Bitty and Beau really believe in their people. “Our employees are trailblazers, paving the way for people with disabilities to be seen as valuable members of society and the workforce. Thank you to everyone who visits our shops and believes in our team,” the franchise writes in a Facebook post.
As its tagline states, Bitty and Beau's is more than a cup of coffee—it's an experience. The founders, Amy and Ben Wright, also call it a human rights movement disguised as a coffee shop. They have four children, Lillie, Emma Grace, Beau, and Bitty. Lilly is on the autism spectrum and Bitty and Beau have Down syndrome. Because well over 80% of people with disabilities are unemployed in the U.S. and statistics are even higher globally, the Wrights set out to create a path for people with disabilities to be valued, accepted, and included in every community. There are now 23 Bitty & Beau coffee shops across the U.S., all of which employ people with disabilities.
Being excluded from a workplace because of neurological or developmental differences can be detrimental to a person's mental health and self-esteem. In this way, Bitty and Beau's is changing lives and offering opportunities. People like Sullivan can now contribute with pleasure and purpose, and offer the best of themselves to the world.