Confident, cheeky, and charming. These are the three words that best describe Russell O’Grady, a person with Down syndrome and an employee of McDonald’s in Australia who became iconic for being one of the firsts people with a disability welcomed by McDonald’s workforce. After rendering 32 years of outstanding service to the famous fast food chain, the 50-year-old Russell O’Grady is saying goodbye to McDonald’s Australia and is set for his retirement.
The 50-year-old hardworking McDonald’s crew began his 32 years of service back in the year 1986. He was only 18 years old back then when he took part in JobSupport’s project to integrate people with a moderate intellectual disability.
Since the day he wore their chain’s uniform, Russell gave best and worked hard to fulfill a variety of duty at McDonald’s. His good service was not left unnoticed for he won the hearts of his customer and quickly became a popular employee. He was even dubbed as ‘the best-known person in Northmead.’
Russell’s family could not help but express how proud they are for his work.
“He’s kind of blasé about it but loves his work very much. He’s pretty cheeky sometimes. He’s my big brother and he keeps me in line,” Lindsey O’Grady, Russell’s brother, shared with The Daily Telegraph.
Now that Russell is retiring, it seems that he will be leaving a lot of heartbroken customers, who frequently visit to see his bright smile.
“We’ve got regular customers who come in to see Russell on Thursday and Friday, and the staff look after him, so we’re going to miss him.” Courtney Purcell, the McDonald’s supervisor, said. Apparently, because of Russell’s positive attitude, he has become an icon in their town.
“From time to time if he’s not on they actually won’t come in to visit us because they are really keen to see him.” The supervisor further explained.
“He’s very affectionate, dearly loved and appreciated, to such an extent that we just don’t believe it.” Mr. Geoff O’ Grady, Russell’s supportive dad shared. He also added that there were instances in which people would stop what they are doing on the street just to shake hands with Russell.
The doting father shared that his son’s attitude and promising career shaped his outlook in life. Among the interviews Russell had, there was one question that stuck on his mind.
“Somebody said to him ‘are you handicapped?’“ Mr. Geoff recalled. “and his answer was ‘I used to be when I went to school, but now I work at McDonald’s’“
Stephen Hawkings once said, “Disability need not be an obstacle to success.” True enough with his words, a person with Down syndrome who is given the opportunity to showcase their skills and talent, there is nothing that could stop people with disability in showing the magnificent things that they can do.
Thanks to Job Support, the organization based in Australia, that worked together to encourage companies to integrate people with disability in their workforce, disabled people are given an opportunity to contribute to the labor community. For over 30 years, the organization is working hard in placing people with mild intellectual disabilities to work.
They are not only aiming to provide a work for disabled people, but they are also aiming help these people with a long-term work. To achieve this they provide training, not only for people with disability, but to their employer as well.
Watch the inspiring video of Russell below and witness how a person with Down Syndrome, changed the perspective of the people around him towards people with disability. May his wonderful story remind us that with the right opportunity and positive attitude, not even a disability could stop you from achieving great things!
Video | Disability Employment Australia