Last week at NorthPark Center in Dallas, Italian restaurant Maggiano's invited a fleet of new employees into the restaurant.
The pop-up dinner, hosted on Wednesday night only, was staffed by people with Down syndrome.
The private room inside the restaurant was temporarily named C21, for the 21st chromosome. People with Down syndrome have full or partial extra copies of the 21st chromosome rather than the typical two.
The evening was a private event, meant to bring awareness to the abilities that people with disabilities have.
"Down syndrome doesn't stop or define individuals with Down syndrome — it's really archaic, outdated laws that do," says Sara Hart Weir, the president and CEO of the National Down Syndrome Society. The dinner at Maggiano's — and the mission of events like it in Washington, D.C., and New York City — call attention to a 1938 law that allows people with disabilities to receive lower wages.
Hart Weir hopes the evening offered guests "a new sense of hope and a sense of commitment." A press release notes that C21's goal "is to demonstrate to the world that these individuals are ready, willing and able to work."
"You never know when the next employer is going to call and want to hire somebody with Down syndrome," Hart Weir says.
"People with Down syndrome are just like every other American."
Dallas-Fort Worth is home to an ice cream shop called Howdy Homemade that employs adults with special needs. We also have adaptive playgrounds in North Texas and a new community-living center in Waxahachie, where adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities can live on their own.