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How Gatepath is Actively Advancing Inclusion in the Workplace in Observation of National Disability Employment Awareness Month

News for 10.01.18
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How Gatepath is Actively Advancing Inclusion in the Workplace in Observation of National Disability Employment Awareness Month

By Bryan Neider, CEO, Gatepath

Today is a very important day for all of us at Gatepath. It’s the first day of a month-long observation of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). As an organization dedicated to helping the adults in our employment training and placement program realize their dreams of having a job, our staff works diligently to establish creative and innovative ways for advancing inclusion in the workplace.

We see firsthand the impact that having a job has on someone’s life by fostering a deep sense of feeling valued and being independent. In observation of NDEAM, I want to share the results of “Pathways,” a successfully launched pilot project in our adult employment program.

Sixteen people in our adult program participated in the development of a micro-enterprise from the ground up. The vision of “Pathways” is to give the individuals in our program an opportunity to explore their interests and skills through collaborative projects that help to identify their interests, which will help influence their career path.

In just four weeks, the selected cohort not only created the concept of a coffee and food services cart called “LeCoffee,” but they also designed and handcrafted a beautiful wooden coffee cart and developed the branding, logo, and marketing materials to launch the new business. It was a truly remarkable accomplishment and a very proud moment for everyone that participated in the project.

“This project allowed for self-discovery in determining the individual’s interests and strengths while developing new vocational skills,” said Inge Verschueren, Gatepath’s adult services curriculum manager, who oversaw the pilot project.

The team who prepared waffles for the “LeCoffee” food and services cart were involved in every step of the process from food preparation to safety and packaging. The team who worked on the marketing learned how to follow brand guidelines to select fonts and colors for the logo design, as well as for advertising, product labeling, and the development of signage and flyers. The team that designed and built the wooden coffee cart started with a conceptual sketch before building the cart to specifications using tools and machinery.

The launch party last week to unveil the new business enterprise was unforgettable. I have never witnessed so much pride and excitement from anything like this before in any of our programs. You could feel the positive energy and sheer joy when the cohort revealed “LeCoffee” and began serving waffles and coffee to party attendees.

“It was truly one of the best days of my life,” Inge said. “There is nothing more satisfying than empowering the people in this program to realize how their own creativity, hard work, and perseverance can turn a vision into reality.”

At the launch, Inge praised the team members for their resilience and recognized their ability to avoid getting frustrated when things didn’t go as planned. “They quickly adapted, learned from their mistakes, and tried something different.”

Jennifer, who worked on the marketing team, said she wants to see “LeCoffee” become a real business. You could see the fire in her eyes. Linda, who had never built anything before, said she discovered through this project that she was not only fully capable of handling power tools and taking measurements, but that she also really enjoyed constructing the cart.   We especially want to thank our woodworking curriculum instructor, Mark Sharea, who played a significant role in the success of this project.

Our next step is to keep the “LeCoffee” team motivated by obtaining the appropriate business and food-safety licensing, so they can take the cart out into the community. The team designed the cart specifically to fit into our wheelchair-accessible van to transport it with the employees around town.

This was a truly collaborative and rewarding endeavor for both staff and program participants. I am extremely proud of their accomplishment and look forward to seeing where “LeCoffee” goes from here.

Throughout the month of October, I encourage you to join me in observing NDEAM by sharing your success stories that celebrate the many and varied contributions of workers with developmental disabilities by emailing me at or message Gatepath through social media. Together, we are creating a world where people of all abilities are fully accepted, respected, and included.



National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) has promoted the inclusion of individuals with disabilities for more than 70 years. It all began in 1945 when Congress declared October a national period to encourage employers to hire individuals with disabilities. This time was initially limited to the first week of October and was later extended to the entire month.

Numerous legislative efforts have been introduced over the course of several decades to promote employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. A full list of legislation advocating for individuals with disabilities is available at