The Mighty Logo

20 Companies That Employ People With Down Syndrome

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Decades ago, some people with Down syndrome were institutionalized at birth. Doctors believed that people with Down syndrome “could not learn, could not add value to the world and could not be employed.”

Obviously, this is extremely untrue. Thanks to full inclusion into mainstream schools, people with Down syndrome are learning right alongside their peers — and doing great.  Thanks to the generally positive nature and bright light of people with Down syndrome, they are adding exceptional value to the world. And, thanks to employers that recognize that people with Down syndrome are not only employable, but also valuable assets to a workplace, many businesses have opened their doors to employ countless people with Down syndrome.

Here are just a few of those companies that employ people with Down syndrome.

1. Hugs and Mugs Cafe

Hugs and Mugs Cafe is a full-service retail shop, coffee shop and gelato cafe run exclusively by adults with Down syndrome. All gift items and edibles are created by people with Down syndrome. Hugs and Mugs Cafe is located in Chicago, Illinois.

You can learn more about Hugs and Mugs Cafe by reading this article, visiting their website or following them on Instagram: @hugs_and_mugs_cafe

2. Bitty & Beau’s Coffee Shop

Bitty & Beau’s is a coffee shop run entirely by people with Down syndrome, autism or cerebral palsy. All employees have a disability, and all managers have degrees in special education.

Bitty & Beau’s Coffee Shop was started by a woman named Amy Wright, who has four children, two of whom have Down syndrome.  When Amy learned that many adults with disabilities did not have jobs, she decided to do something about it. She knew people with disabilities would be great workers, if they were just given the chance…so she opened Bitty & Beau’s Coffee Shop.

Bitty & Beau’s currently has three locations: one in Wilmington, North Carolina, one in Charleston, South Carolina and one in Savannah, Georgia and they’re hoping to open even more.

Amy is so proud of what she has built, saying, “Creating this has given people a way to interact with people with disabilities that they never had before. This is a safe place where people can test the waters and realize how much more alike we are than different. And that’s what it’s all about. Our hope is that other businesses will see our success and realize the importance and benefit of hiring people with disabilities.”

You can learn more about Bitty & Beau’s Coffee Shop by reading this article, visiting their website or following them on Instagram: @bittyandbeauscoffee

3. Lucky Ones Coffee Shop

Lucky Ones Coffee Shop is a coffee shop that employs and empowers people with disabilities of all kinds. Their mission is to change the way people see other people. Their ultimate goal is to employ as many people as possible.

Lucky Ones Coffee Shop is located in Park City, Utah. It was started by Taylor Matkins and Katie Holyfield, who have both worked in adaptive reaction and saw the great need for more job opportunities for people with disabilities.

Ultimately, Matkins and Holyfield’s goal is to promote independence for those with disabilities, but also to allow other people to experience the joy they experience every day working with that population.

“They have such a different take on the world,” Holyfield says. “You come in [to our coffee shop] and you leave with a smile on your face.”

You can learn more about Lucky Ones Coffee Shop by reading this article, visiting their website or following them on Instagram: @luckyonescoffee

4. Trader Joe’s

5. Publix

6. Walgreens

7. CVS

8. Petco

9. Safeway

10. Kroger

11. Wegman’s 

12. Amazon

13. IBM Corporation

14. Procter & Gamble

15. 5/3 Bank

16. Cincinnati Reds

17. Ernst & Young

18. Cisco Systems

19. SC Johnson

20. Sodexo

In addition to all of the places above that employ people with Down syndrome, there are also opportunities all over the country for people with Down syndrome to further their education and get on-the-job training opportunities.

Here are just a few of those opportunities:

1. Day programs through Arc

For more than 60 years, the nationwide Arc program has been on the front lines in making change happen for people diagnosed with Down syndrome and other disabilities. Arc is the nation’s leading advocate for all people with disabilities and their families, and the premier provider of the supports and services that all people want and need.

Learn more about Arc here.

2. The Transition and Access Program (TAP) through the University of Cincinnati

Since its inception in 2012, TAP provides a four-year college experience for people with Down syndrome and other disabilities.  Students live in the residence halls, attend classes, engage in internships and participate in an active social life. TAP’s mission is to enhance the quality of life of students through advocacy, access and research. TAP aims to provide a post-secondary experience for every person who desires it.

Learn more about TAP here.

3. The ClemsonLIFE Program at Clemson University

The ClemsonLIFE Program is designed for students with Down syndrome and other disabilities who desire a post-secondary experience on a college campus.

Learn more about ClemsonLIFE here.

In conclusion, it’s so encouraging to know that all of the post-secondary opportunities and job opportunities listed above exist! It makes me feel so optimistic for Alice’s future.

The sky is truly the limit for people with Down syndrome these days.  And I cannot wait to go visit one of those coffee shops!

A version of this story originally appeared on

Photo credit: Weedezign/Getty Images

Originally published: October 9, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home