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Mariela Batalla at Krug Cafe in Buenos Aires
Mariela Batalla at Krug Cafe in Buenos Aires

Krug Café creates inclusive workspace for neurodivergent people

When the municipality approved the coffee shop venture, the owners reached out to the families of each prospective employee to make sure we still wanted to work there. I said yes without knowing what I was getting into. When I arrived at Krüg Café, I suddenly understood. Happiness and excitement filled me. This place offered me the chance to work, have my own money, and finally become an adult.

Mariela Batalla at Krug Cafe in Buenos Aires
Interview Subject
Miriam “Titi” Batalla is 25 years old and is from Balcarce, Buenos Aires, Argentina. She was born with Down Syndrome and currently lives with her father. She attends community activities and takes dance classes. Miriam now works at Krüg Café and is often accompanied by her therapeutic companion who also drives her to work.
Background Information
The latest record of the National Study on the Profile of Persons with Disabilities carried out by INDEC shows that of the 10.2 percent of people identified as disabled in Argentina, only 32.2 percent have jobs. There are more employed men than women with a wide gap (40.3 percent men and 25.8 percent women).

Taking these data into account, with a law in force that grants a 4 percent quota for people with disabilities, it is not clear when this law is effectively enforced. Needless to say, the COVID-19 situation worsened the outlook for this sector as well.

 However, those who are inserted in a workspace exhibit good performance, both in their work activity and in their relationship with their colleagues. Argentina’s Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security proports to implement actions to support employment and training for people with disabilities.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina ꟷ My name is Miriam Batalla but people call me Titi. I have Down Syndrome. Today, I work as a dishwasher at Krüg Café in Balca, Buenos Aires with other neurodivergent people.

In our city, no one will hire people like us due to our disabilities. They see our disabilities as a sign of uselessness and assume we cannot exercise any activity that requires responsibility. We are considered children in society.

Krüg Café is a new space for neurodivergent people to work and integrate into society and adult life.

Krüg Café hires first 12 employees with Down Syndrome and intellectual disabilities

When I met my gymnastics professor Esteban Valero during a vacation, he saw in me great potential for development in the labor field. He envisioned creating a coffee shop to allow us to develop professionally; to take care of a business and become responsible for our performance.

On May 24, 2021, through a collaborative effort, the coffee shop became a reality. I started my first job. Having Down Syndrome, I had never been allowed to work. People assumed I would never have a job. You rarely see people with disabilities working in my city.

In fact, in Argentina people like me usually never get jobs, even when labor quota laws like Law 22.431 require it. The quotas go unfilled. We rarely know where to go, whether employers will treat us well, or if we have a fair opportunity to be hired. Employers often do not trust our capacity to work because of our disabilities.

When Krüg Café opened, choosing employees meant looking for those who finished high school and had the desire to thrive and develop professionally. The organizers hired twelve people in total. Each of us had different levels of educational development. Most of us have Down Syndrome or some form of intellectual disability. Over a year later, the same staff remains.

Young woman with Down Syndrome finds purpose and joy at Krüg Café

When the municipality approved the coffee shop venture, the owners reached out to the families of each prospective employee to communicate the great news. They made sure we still wanted to work there.

I said yes without knowing what I was getting into. When I arrived at Krüg Café, I suddenly understood. Happiness and excitement filled me when I experienced the model. I knew this place offered me the chance to work, have my own money, and finally become an adult.

All the neurodivergent employees trained in the office on site to determine where we would be most comfortable working. Esteban, our manager, asked if we wanted to change our role or felt comfortable doing what he assigned. He asked if we wanted to learn anything new.

The environment proved to be perfect! We never had problems with customers or our coworkers. This demonstrates people with disabilities can work well and develop. Having a job allows me to feel useful and grown up. I can buy things without having to depend on others’ money. I can go to a birthday party with a gift I purchased and buy my own clothing.

Miriam Batalla working with a colleague drying and tidying | Photo courtesy of Krüg Café

Krüg Café’s inclusive environment changes lives for employees and customers

The opportunity has provided me with freedom and autonomy; it has given me a place to insert myself into society from another angle. Although I had inclusion programs at school, before joining Krüg Café, I only attended summer camp or went dancing with a group of people who are not like me. Now, I have a lot of fun with my neurodivergent colleagues.

Krüg Café is more than just a gastronomic business [relating to the practice of cooking or eating good food]. They built it considering the diversity of bodies it would employ and serve. It contains a washroom for people with reduced mobility and a ramp at the entrance. It also contains enough space for the circulation of wheelchairs.

I feel happy to go to work, and do not like to miss a shift. I feel supported daily by my colleagues, managers, and my family. With gratitude for this opportunity, I want to keep working and learning more about the coffee trade. 

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Eva is currently studying anthropology at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata. She is part of the Guide Service at the Museo de La Plata and a member of the Body Studies Group (GEC).

In her free time, she dedicates herself to taking photos and developing different performing arts such as dance, theater, and circus.