Nearly one in five Americans has a disability, almost 57 million, and adults age 21 to 64 with disabilities had median monthly earnings of $1,961 compared with $2,724 for those with no disability, according to the latest data from the Census Bureau.
Many times when young people with disabilities become adults, they struggle to find work and must rely on their parents. Tempa and Mike Kohler wanted better for their 24-year-old son Bradley, who began "aging out" of the education system two years ago.
Together they founded Special Kneads and Treats, a remarkable bakery in Lawrenceville, Georgia, that proves given the chance entrepreneurship can help families and communities thrive. Appearing on the Today Show recently, the Kohlers shared their story:
"That was only the main thing going on in my mind: 'What is he going to do when we're gone?'" Tempa told TODAY. "'I've got to give him something to have, a place where he can go and be accepted.' It means the world for us to be able to do this for him." …
But the bakery doesn't just help Bradley — the majority of Special Kneads' employees have learning disabilities. …
The bakery currently employs nine young adults with disabilities. And they're plenty busy; the typical wait for customers on a Saturday is 30-people deep. "You give them a job to do, they learn it, and they know it well and they take pride in it and the love to come to work," Tempa said. "I have yet to have one [special needs employee] call in sick."
Employees with special needs are often paired with volunteers or staff employees. … Every other Friday, the employees get something that many of us take for granted: a paycheck.
"It's a very big deal for them when they get that paycheck for the first time," Tempa said.
That's because the paycheck is more than just the money they make. Rather, it's the feeling that they get for a job well done.
"It's really a good process because it's fun and it's something I look forward to doing on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday," Bradley said. "It's really good to have a family that I work with. I have a family of my own, but it's really great coming to work and seeing these guys, because they make my life happy."
A special report by Live Action News notes that the bakery began turning a profit within six months of opening, in large part because of the strong work ethic of its employees:
Parents of employees with special needs recall how their kids are up and ready to go long before their shifts begin, hardly able to contain their excitement to begin working each day. …
“What they do is critical to our success,” says Mike, underscoring the fact that these jobs are not provided as charity or just to give adults with special needs something to do. They are earning an honest wage and contributing in a very real way to the success of the business.