New York City café dedicated to giving disability community a space for work and joy

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Wednesday, April 3, 2024
Cafe Joyeux promotes inclusion, spotlights workers with autism
Lauren Glassberg has more on Cafe Joyeux on World Autism Awareness Day.

NEW YORK -- In New York City, there's a cafe on just about every corner. But one shop in Midtown serves inclusion with every cup.

More than eight million people nationwide have intellectual or developmental disabilities, and about 80% of them are unemployed.

Café Joyeux recently opened in Manhattan, and it's not all about profits, but also about promoting inclusion.

"I got jobs, but barely getting paid or didn't get paid which is a problem in the disabled community," said Rachel Barcellona, an employee at Café Joyeux. "We get hired, but no one pays us because they think we aren't worthy or are a burden."

But Café Joyeux is all about employing and empowering people like Rachel.

The idea for the business was born in 2017 in France. There are now 20 of these cafes in Europe.

The first U.S. location opened in Lexington Avenue in NYC last month, and already has a following.

"You can choose any coffee shop or choose any lunch place," said one customer, Margot Wilensky. "But here it really supports people that want to be a part of a community."

That is why Jacqueline Cottrell brought her son Jake to the shop.

"And I know my son will be launching into employment soon," she said. "It's exciting and it's wonderful."

Shray Campbell is the general manager at the cafe and loves her team.

"I come to work trying to prove myself to them instead of them instead of them proving themselves to me," said Campbell. "For me, it's like I'm always like trying to set them goals. Like, okay, what do you want to learn next? What you want to do next? And after this job, where do you want to go?"

For now, Rachel doesn't go anywhere but here, which is something to consider on World Autism Awareness Day.

"People who have autism are capable of anything," said Barcellona. "We want to work. We want to show that we are amazing."

Café Joyeux is a non-profit, so everything sold at the cafe goes right back into the mission, giving people who often never find employment jobs and plenty of joy.