Wisconsin Restaurant Owner Creates Guide to Hiring People with Disabilities

Nancy Christy, a restaurant owner, developed and distributed an employer handbook entitled Meaningful Work: A Personal, Professional and Legal Guide to Hiring People with Disabilities. Christy was owner of the Wilson Street Grill, a restaurant in Madison, Wis., that employed people with mental illnesses from 1987 until it closed in 2001.

Christy's approach was to break down traditional restaurant jobs into positions customized to each employee's capabilities; about one-third of the staff had disabilities. After attention from such media outlets as USA Today and CNN.com, and after receiving the Governor's Workforce Innovation Award, the restaurant was approached by other restaurant owners for technical assistance.

Key Results

Christy designed the handbook to meet restaurant owners' needs by providing step-by-step guidance in:

  • hiring and training
  • addressing legal issues
  • discussing how people with disabilities relate to their work
  • providing informational resources and answers to frequently asked questions.


The Wisconsin Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Governors' Council on People with Disabilities and the Developmental Disabilities Council allocated funds for a companion videotape. Some 500 copies of the handbook were produced and dissemination plans were being implemented in the fall of 2002.