BALTIMORE, Md. – If you just walked into Atwater’s in Baltimore, it would probably seem like a normal café. But if you walked into the kitchen, you would meet Tayvon Brown. He’s the star of the show.
“I’ve never met anyone that like has been so positive, constantly, no matter what,” said Morgan Johnson, who is Brown's co-worker.
“One of those people that just lifts your spirits and makes you happy to be around," said Caitlin Gallagher, the manager at Atwater's.
Brown has autism, but he hasn’t let that stop him from doing pretty much anything.
“This is my sixth and a half job,” said Brown.
He’s passionate about his job, washing dishes and prepping food
“I got to keep these dishes nice and clean and sanitized. I got to keep everyone safe,” said Brown.
And his artwork, which he gives to his coworkers.
“Our office is decorated with all of Tayvon’s artwork, we have Tayvon’s artwork at the big kitchen, where we bake everything and we all get to take Tayvon’s art home and make our spaces more beautiful,” said Gallagher.
He connects his fellow employees at Atwater’s. Gallagher says he’s the secret ingredient.
“I don’t know what to compare it to except like the gluten of the staff that Tayvon is. He brings everyone together,” Gallagher said.
Brown is just one person out of the 19% of Americans who have a disability who were employed in 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
For comparison, 66% of people without disabilities held jobs last year.
People with disabilities are also more than twice as likely to work only part-time.
It’s not easy for those with disabilities to find work, no matter how much they may want to.
It will take more businesses, like Atwater’s, having an open mind about hiring people like Brown.
“We’ve worked with lots of folks with intellectual differences with physical differences, with different cultural backgrounds, different languages spoken, I do feel proud, I also feel like of course and maybe some impatience that this is a special case and it’s not a wider practice,” said Gallagher.
While they can’t solve the issue of underemployment of people with intellectual disabilities, everyone at Atwater’s can enjoy their time with Brown, and every time he makes them smile.
“It makes me feel like that I have a friend at work that can be nice to me, someone who can help me through my tough days,” said Johnson.
“Tayvon can make any of bad days turnaround. He is just one of those people who lifts your spirits and makes you happy to be around,” said Gallagher.