When we talk of attempting a mature approach to a once shunned medical condition – this could be the perfect example.
A café in Istanbul is making headlines for exclusively hiring people with Down syndrome. The aptly named ‘Down Café’ opened its doors in 2011 in one the well-off neighbourhoods of Istanbul that employs staff between the ages of 18 and 25, and aims to empower them with self-confidence and independence.
I have Sezil and I think she is a gift to me to understand others like her. When we think about the number of people with Down syndrome, there is not a wide range of career paths available,” Singen said.
According to Singen, when the cafe first opened in 2011, business was slow as potential customers hesitated to enter. Those who did enter the cafe appeared aloof but, once the initial surprise wore off, they started to appreciate the ambiance. The employees work alternately and receive a monthly salary. Open from 9 to 5 on weekdays, the cafe can host a total of 40 customers.
I think the cafe also helps people get rid of their prejudices against disabled people and provides a chance to people with Down syndrome to prove themselves and show off their talents. They want to be together with more people, they want to be accepted by the society and they want their talents to be discovered. That is why we need more sponsors, donors and especially more customers to increase the number of the cafes like Down Café,” Singen says.
Down Café is a joint project Istanbul Foundation for Mentally Disordered People and Sisli municipality, sponsored by Alternative Life Association.