Virginia Beach man with Down syndrome celebrates nine years with Kroger

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Getting a job can be tough but getting a job when you have a disability can be even more difficult.

Thursday is National Down Syndrome Day, and News 3 met up with one local man who is making a difference in the lives of those he helps at work - one smile at a time.

Travis Thereault said he loves his job - from bagging groceries, to getting shopping carts, to cleaning the store. He works hard as a courtesy clerk and just celebrated nine years with the Kroger on Shore Drive In Virginia Beach.

“Kroger is like my second family here. I can’t say enough about how much I love this place,” said Thereault.

His boss, Kroger Assistant Store Manager Scott Steward, said Travis is an exceptional employee.

Related: Act of kindness inspires career path for local child with special needs 

“He comes in on time and is always ready to do his job, and the biggest thing is his attitude. He’s always positive. He is always smiling. He’s happy. He’s a great associate to be around,” said Steward. "At Kroger, we have a saying -  'We feed the human spirit' - and Travis exemplifies that."

The CDC says in recent years, Down syndrome has become more common and that it continues to be the most common chromosomal disorder. Each year, about 6,000 babies are born with Down syndrome, which is about one in every 700 babies born.

Officials said more businesses are hiring people with developmental disabilities, but there is still room for improvement.

Below is information from the group The Arc, an organization that supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities:

  • Employment statistics: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 29 percent of Americans ages 16 to 64 with a disability were employed in 2018, compared with nearly 75 percent of those without a disability. Research shows that the employment rates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are lower than those published by the BLS, hovering between 17 – 20 percent.
  • Corporate Best practicesBank of AmericaStarbucksMicrosoftSAP and CVS are all benchmarks for disability-inclusive hiring.
  • The Arc’s statement on disability and employment: “There is an increasing number of employers that are opening their eyes to the large and relatively untapped talent pool that exists in the disability community, which is an encouraging sign. That said, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities continue to face significant barriers to employment, including public misconceptions and social stigma, limited access to pre-employment training, and a lack of job opportunities in their local communities.”

Travis said he is passionate about his work.

“The interacting with the employees and customers and taking care of them. Make them a priority,” said Travis.

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