Every year, CNN broadcasts a special called “CNN Heroes” honoring ordinary people doing work to help others. The public can vote for their favorite CNN hero at CNNheroes.com. Whichever hero earns the most votes will be named CNN Hero of the Year during a live broadcast on CNN December 9, 2018, at 8:00 p.m.
Last year’s CNN Hero of the Year, Amy Wright of Wilmington, North Carolina, was honored for starting Bitty and Beau’s Coffee Shop named after her two youngest children, both diagnosed with Down syndrome, according to the coffee shop’s website. Bitty and Beau’s has since expanded to two additional locations in Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, and mainly employs young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. For the most, a job at Bitty and Beau’s is often their first paid working experience.
While part of me was happy Wright received CNN’s Hero of the Year for 2017 because her work involves supporting young people with disabilities and giving them an opportunity at a paid position, part of me felt nonplussed by the win because the coffee shops are run, in large part, by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These shops don’t incorporate a large number of typically developing peers aside from interactions with the public who visit the shops.
While I am definitely in favor of employing young people with all types of disabilities, I would rather see them employed among a large number of typically developing peers. According to a January 2017 press release on The Today Show’s website, all forty employees at one Bitty and Beau’s location have an intellectual or developmental disability with the exception of two managers. Although, I have to admit, if I lived anywhere close to North Carolina or Georgia, I would probably still buy a cup of coffee from Bitty and Beau’s, solely because it does employ young people with disabilities and gives them a chance at paid work, which I do support very much.
Hot Dog Restaurant in Fair Oaks Mall, Columbus, Indiana, also staffed by people with intellectual disabilities