Love or loathe McDonald's, the Golden Arches is one of the most iconic sights in modern culture. A testament to the fact that since the 50s, we humans have loved few things more than chomping down on cheap burgers and fries. And while the restaurant chain has come under fire for the role it's played in the obesity crisis, its popularity has never waned.
Part of the reason for this is that it's got something for everyone (even vegans these days). And unlike a lot of other retailers, McDonald's has strived to be an inclusive employer too. Case in point, Russell O' Grady, a man with Down's syndrome, who has overcome every hurdle in order to deliver a five-star service at the restaurant for 32 years.
To discover how Russell landed his job, check out the video below:
Statistically, one in every 700 babies have Down syndrome, and while there is an increasing amount of support available for those with the condition, which causes intellectual impairment and physical abnormalities, there is no known cure.
As a result, people like Russell, unfortunately, have a shorter life expectancy and stunted intellectual development.
In a bid to protect them from the dangers of the world, many parents of children with Down syndrome opt to remove them from mainstream education and don't allow them to go to work - but this was far from the case for Russell.
He began his career at the Golden Arches way back in 1986 at Northmead McDonald's in Sydney, and this was a remarkable achievement given that people with the condition are rarely employed in 2019, let alone back in the 80s.
Russell, however, proved every stereotype about people with Down syndrome wrong, showing that those with the disability can make a valuable contribution to society, and spread his infectious simile and happiness to everyone he met.
Now, at the age of 50, he has decided to retire from service and that's why his story is being celebrated.
When Russell was hired by Northmead McDonald's at the age of 18, he had no previous work experience, and despite this and his condition, the branch decided to give him a chance and he soon proved himself to be a brilliant employee.
To begin with, Russell's job involved packing party boxes, but he soon graduated to performing other tasks.
In addition to the work he was tasked with by McDonald's, he also became something of a store greeter, and people would regularly come into the restaurant just to talk to him. In fact, sources have reported that he's the "best-known person in Northmead" and something of a local celebrity who attracted people to his particular McDonald's branch.
After Russell's retirement, McDonald’s supervisor Courtney Purcell spoke about how much he will be missed: "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."
The 50-year-old acquired the job thanks to the help of JobSupport - a career platform that aims to support those with intellectual disabilities get into the workplace.
This is their mission statement:
"Jobsupport works with each employer and the person with an intellectual disability to customize a job that meets a genuine need for the employer and the person with an intellectual disability."
Russell's father subsequently thanked JobSupport for helping him to begin his career at McDonald's - and, more importantly, break down the stereotype surrounding those with intellectual disabilities like Down syndrome.
"Without that initiative, lots of people like Russell wouldn’t have the jobs they do today and they wouldn't have the reward that gives them, which is pride, a boost of their self-esteem, and feeling important and belonging in society," he said.
Congratulations Russell! You are a true inspiration!