Tehran’s newest cafe offers glimmer of hope for disabled Iranians

Al-Monitor | : The staff of the Downtism cafe in Tehran, Iran, seen in an image uploaded May 3, 2018.

With tables squeezed together, framed paintings on the walls and a one-page menu that offers a selection of coffees, Downtism cafe in northern Tehran looks like any other coffee shop. It’s unique, though: Downtism is the first and only cafe in Iran where all the employees have Down syndrome or autism.

“I really like my job. It feels good to be out of home with friends and make real money,” Arya, a 21-year-old with autism, told Al-Monitor.

His mother, who identified herself as Mrs. Azad, said she was equally pleased with her son’s job as a dishwasher. She told Al-Monitor, “We’re very happy and satisfied that they’re working. This way they can both work and socialize with others. They develop social skills and self-confidence.” She and other parents take turns lending a hand at the cafe and overseeing how their children are doing.

Downtism, which opened May 1, has quickly made a name for itself. When Al-Monitor visited the coffee shop after Ramadan, all the tables were filled.

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