After 32 years of loyal employment, Russell O’Grady finally celebrated his retirement from a Sydney McDonald’s.
He’s a trailblazer, too. Thirty years ago, he was one of the first one hundred people living with Down Syndrome to secure employment in Australia. Through an organization called Job Support, which provides training and job placement for people with intellectual disabilities, he began working three days a week greeting customers and keeping the restaurant tidy. He was 18 then, during a time when discrimination against people with disabilities was rampant.
Prior to the mid 1980s, people with moderate intellectual disabilities were not really able to find work at all. Since then, the program has helped change minds about the value of their employment. Job Support says O’Grady’s barrier-breaking has really helped others.
His father, Geoff O’Grady, told the Daily Mail Australia, “Somebody said to him, ‘are you handicapped?’ and his answer was, ”I used to be when I went to school, but now I work at McDonald’s.'” He said the job changed his son’s outlook on life.
O’Grady’s customers and co-workers hate to see him retire, but he’s stepping away from work in order to protect his health. So obviously a big party was given in his honor!
O’Grady plans to spend his new found free time perfecting his bowling game. But his friends from McDonald’s will certainly miss him.