Making it work in the kitchen

Sean Callaghan is a General Manager of the Loblaws Account in Toronto, Canada. He manages a team, which includes four individuals with disabilities: Jennifer, Anthony, Amos and Kurt. Sean shares with us what it means to manage every day a team with special needs.




  • A close-knit team
    A close-knit team “Jennifer, Amos, Kurt, Anthony (from left to write on the picture) deliver excellent performance and customer service. Working within an able-bodied team of 36 people has helped to increase their skill sets and improve their sense of self worth. I manage each one of them according to their disability. Although I did receive some training, which is always helpful, working with individuals with disabilities is also about using common sense and practicing patience and respect."
  • Preparing with pride
    Preparing with pride “Jennifer is in charge of the salad bar and takes great pride in her work. She is deaf, so colleagues write things down and use hand gestures to communicate with her. It is amazing how much can be said without using words or sounds! If this is not enough, I also use a voice recognition application on my smart phone, which transcribes my words into text for her to read. Jennifer then responds with a text message.”
  • Always ready to lend a hand
    Always ready to lend a hand “Amos works in the kitchen and has a learning disability. But this never gets in the way of his dedication and willingness to stay late or fill in for colleagues. Communicating with someone with a learning disability requires practice, more patience and using simpler words, without fancy expressions.”
  • Focusing on the job
    Focusing on the job “Anthony is another valuable member of the kitchen team. He is autistic, a disability characterised by the importance of routine. And that’s one of the reasons why Anthony loves his job: his routine enables him to stay focused and be part of the group. When hiring a person with a disability, it’s important to be familiar with the symptoms and challenges of their disability.”
  • Kitchen-skilled!
    Kitchen-skilled! “Kurt is a kitchen porter with Asperger’s Syndrome. Persons with Asperger’s Syndrome can find social interactions to be challenging. But Kurt is an extremely quick learner. Once you show him how to do something, he does it perfectly every time after that. Again, it’s about understanding the disability and understanding your employee’s strengths and weaknesses to best engage their skills.”
  • Keeping things simple
    Keeping things simple “I have found that working with and managing individuals with disabilities does not necessarily require any special training. I make sure I lead by example and keep things simple. If using words and language is not effective, I will use visual tools to help the person understand what is needed.”

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