YL’S GELATERIA: CREATING AN INCLUSIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT FOR PWD

KUALA LUMPUR, All loving mothers will always do whatever they can to ensure that their children are well taken care of and adequately prepared to face life challenges later on. This has been done by Laura Yap, 62, the founder of gelato shop YL's Gelateria, who devoted her life to her youngest and autistic son Khoo Yuan Li, 25. YL's Gelateria is a social initiative which aims to encourage more parties to provide an inclusive work environment for a segment of society, especially for Persons with Disabilities (PwD), which has been heavily underrepresented on the employment scene. YL's Gelateria, which was named after Khoo, was originally started as an early intervention centre called 'Early Intervention Program: Autism' around 20 years ago when Khoo was diagnosed with autism at three years old, mainly to give him and other children the support to get them school ready. 'I quit my job as an in-house legal counsel after the diagnosis to learn and research all about autism, as early intervention was recommended for my son. Unfortunately, early intervention was easier said than done because there were more parent support groups than intervention centres back then. 'Like any parent of a child with special needs, I constantly worry about what lies ahead when my husband and I are no longer around to provide support. That was why I started the 'Early Intervention Program: Autism' centre for children with autism and special educational needs,' Yap told reporters recently. Besides being a form of estate planning, the mother of two said, YL's Gelateria is also a semi-sheltered environment for the ice cream-loving Khoo to engage with the public under supervision. His daily schedule at the shop involves administrative duties and maintaining cleanliness. 'After 20 years of advocating for him, I now see the need for more of such social initiatives. With that said, YL's Gelateria isn't just a business but also a platform for social responsibility. 'The neurotypical and autistic co-workers bring different strengths to the tab le that can complement each other. Neither is 'better' than the other, but what they both bring to the table is valuable,' she said. Yap said at YL's Gelateria, individuals with autism would undergo a six-month training programme, comprising classroom instruction and practical training. 'The training programme includes personal appearance and hygiene, health and safety awareness, pre-packed food handling, food safety, customer service and dealing with payment,' she said, adding that they are entitled to get group therapy sessions twice a week with an educational psychologist. Yap said another autistic employee will be joining them full-time next month. She also hoped that businesses would support YL's Gelateria by choosing its products for their events. "It's a small step towards a more inclusive society,' she added. For more information, contact Yap at 012-376 9383 or visit YL's Gelateria at 35G, Jalan SS 21/60, Damansara Utama, 47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Stay updated with the shop at its website or social media platforms on Facebook and Instagram. Source: BERNAMA News Agency