Jacksonville employers looking to hire people with Down syndrome, autism, or other IDDS

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Several Jacksonville-based businesses are teaming up to give jobs to people who have autism, Down syndrome, or other intellectual and developmental differences (IDDs).

Zach Alexander has been with Al’s Pizza in Riverside since June of 2021. The 25-year-old could be described as an all-star food prepper. You may not realize it when you meet him, but Zach has an IDD.

“For us, he’s just part of our team,” Chris Kelly, Director of Operations for Al’s Pizza, said. “He’s Zach, and we love having him.”

Kelly hired Zach through a non-profit associated with a group called Connectable, which works to turn businesses into more inclusive workplaces, especially through hiring. He told Action News Jax he has a personal reason for partnering with this group: his cousin.

“He’s [Kelly’s cousin] in his mid-60s right now, and they didn’t have programs like this when he was younger,” Kelly said. “If he had something like this when he was in his mid-20s, his whole life trajectory would be very different.”

Intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs) are a group of disabilities that begin at birth or in childhood that can affect a person’s intellectual, physical, or emotional development.

For Zach, this job has given him a second family. “They [his colleagues] are very nice people,” Zach Alexander said. “Chris is like one the kindest persons I’ve ever met.”

“Now, he’s a part of our team, and we can’t operate our business without him,” Kelly said.

Shopability Saturday is April 30. Families can support one or more of these businesses either in person or online. There are 150 to choose from. Just take a selfie in front of one of the inclusive businesses you visit – or a photo of what you purchased. Then, post it on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter using the hashtag, #ShopabillityJax – and tag @ConnectableJax for one entry to the drawing. Two entries will be randomly selected and will win one of two $100 Visa gift cards.