In the Italian city of Asti, about 300 miles northwest of Rome, there’s a hotel staffed by people with disabilities. The hotel’s name is Albergo Etico, which translates in English to “Hotel Ethics.”
Hotel Ethics is tackling the problem of unemployment in the disability community. In a previous newswire on the subject addressing the situation in the United States, NPQ’s Rick Cohen wrote:
“It has been said, actually, that despite all of the accomplishments attributable to the landmark ADA legislation, the area of negligible progress over the past quarter-century has been in employment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, labor force participation rates and unemployment rates have remained, at best, relatively stable, hardly demonstrating the progress that has occurred in other areas of life for persons with disabilities. The BLS reports that the labor force participation rate for men 16 to 64 with disabilities was 40.6 percent in July of 2008, plunging to 30.0 percent in January of 2014, and rising only to 34.6 percent last month; for women with disabilities, labor force participation was over 30 percent between June of 2008 and December of 2010, but stood at 28.8 percent in December of 2014. That’s well less than half the participation rates of adults in that age bracket without disabilities.”
The hotel’s history dates back to 2009, when it was a restaurant. A boy with Down syndrome had an internship at the restaurant. Today, the hotel employs individuals with disabilities in a variety of positions that include waiters, receptionists, sommeliers, and tour guides. Staff members learn independent living skills and also receive career training as part of a three-year program where they live with coworkers at the hotel.
To complete the circle of inclusion, Hotel Ethics also welcomes guests with disabilities. Guest accommodations include tactile maps for individuals with visual impairments, accessible parking for wheelchairs, and accessible tours for exploring the gastronomic culture of the surrounding area.
Hiring individuals with intellectual disabilities is not just the right thing to do; it makes good business sense as well. As stated in a letter from U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, Delaware Governor Jack Markell, and South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard to governors across the United States, “Americans with disabilities comprise a highly untapped resource of loyalty, ingenuity, and productivity. Employment First (the concept that everyone can succeed in competitive employment if offered appropriate supports and accommodations) can help states connect these workers with employers to improve their businesses and the economy.”—Debbie Laskey