Customers can order a variety of drinks and baked goods from Bitty and Beau’s coffee shops, just like any other. They do, however, have a distinguishing feature: their employees.

The chain, which was founded in 2016 in Wilmington, North Carolina, is committed to hiring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Amy Wright and Ben Wright opened the cafe to honor their two Down syndrome children, Bitty and her older brother, Beau. Their autistic sister, Lillie, recently created a Braille menu that will be available soon in all of their locations. Emma Grace, their older sister, works as the family’s creative director.

Amy and Ben’s attempt to “change the way people see people with disabilities” is to adopt hiring practices.

“As a mother of two children with Down syndrome and one with autism, I’ve seen how they’ve been overlooked or marginalized,” she explained. “And we believe it’s a result of a social issue in which people simply haven’t recognized the inherent value of their lives.”

Amy, on the other hand, holds no one responsible. She explained that “when you are not exposed to something, you don’t care about it.” That’s what they’re attempting to change by opening a coffee shop that features people with disabilities.

Employees at Bitty and Beau’s take orders, make drinks, and converse with customers. Customers will gain a new perspective on people with disabilities as a result of this.

Instead of writing names on cups, Bitty and Beau’s matches customers with their orders using a deck of playing cards.

Employees at the coffee shop say that having a steady job has made a huge difference in their lives.

“Before working here, I was shy and reserved,” said Matt Dean, who started at Bitty and Beau’s when it first opened. “I gained confidence, but I also made wonderful friends here.” It’s like having a second family.”

The couple is well aware of the unemployment crisis that people with disabilities face in the United States.

“Statistically, 80 percent of people with disabilities are unemployed in America,” Amy stated. “We have a lot of work to do in bringing about change in every state across the country.” That is our strategy.”

Their hope is that customers will return to their own businesses and advocate for hiring people with disabilities.

Amy stated that historically, people with disabilities have not had the same opportunities.

“The attrition rate is next to nothing,” Amy said, noting that the majority of their employees have been with them since the first coffee shop opened. “It’s a fantastic team.”

“The business world simply needs to find ways to start feathering in people with disabilities into the workplace so that it doesn’t become the exception, but the rule,” Ben said.

Bitty and Beau’s operates 24 locations in 11 states, with five franchised locations and six corporate stores. Another 13 are being built or are in the planning stages.

According to the company’s philosophy, the chain is all about “changing the way people accept, respect, value, include, see, and love other people, not just serving a good cup of coffee.”

They want the café to be a place where people can meet others in the community.

“We’ve discovered, particularly during this pandemic, that if people are going to leave their house and go somewhere, they want it to be an experience,” she said. “They want to make it worthwhile because otherwise you can have things delivered to your door.”

It’s wonderful to see a coffee shop that prioritizes inclusivity above all else! To learn more about Bitty and Beau’s cause, visit their Facebook, Instagram, and website.

Watch the company video below:

By Mariam