One of our prime focus with research has been to elevate the quality of life for our associates. Employment brings in dignity and a sense of purpose for people with disabilities, who are often left on the sidelines.
A research question which therefore came up was- “How do the lives of adults with disabilities change after gainful employment?”. We wanted to discover what small and big changes our employees reported in their lives, after starting to work at our Cafe/Kitchen.
We set out on this task by interviewing all of our employees, both with and without disabilities. Using a questionnaire and through one on one interviews, we asked our employees questions about their background, their interests, their experience working in the cafe or the kitchen, their hopes and dreams and also their assessment of their current lives.
Through our interviews we found that there was a sweeping sense of warmth and comfort associated with being on the job for all employees. Our associates with disability reported the following as the biggest changes they personally experienced.
Higher sense of purpose- Many of the employees previously struggled with having a sense of purpose to their everyday lives. Many had structured lives, but no exciting vocational challenges. At Ada’s, associates do meaningful work which drives them to improve their performance and increases engagement at work.
Sense of independence- Walking up to a customer and serving them a coffee, gives our associates a unique sense of independence. Not only does it make the associates feel personally competent, it also makes them realize that people depend on them.
Empowerment- Handing out the right change to a customer or arranging the chairs around the cafe unsupervised are examples of activities which the employees with disabilities say make them feel empowered. This feeling of empowerment gives them the confidence to learn new skills both at and outside of work.
Being a part of a team- For most of the employees, Ada’s was the first place where they felt like a part of a team. Through training and development with the rest of the team, a sense of collective pride and friendship has formed within the team. Working towards common goals and by learning through each other, the employees feel deeply connected to one another and consider each other as close friends.
Financial independence- One of the more prominent changes which has had a trickle down effect in the lives of our employees, has been the ability to earn a living. Financial independence has allowed some of the employees to take better care of themselves. For instance, one employee was able to buy herself a mattress for the first time. For some others, financial independence means being able to make more holistic decisions about their lifestyle.