Cafe Gives Young Disabled Albanians Start in Life

The E Jona café is the latest addition to the posh Blloku neighborhood of Tirana, which is made up of hundreds of cafes, bars and nightclubs.

But, unlike anywhere else in the block, morning macchiato can also be ordered here in sign language.

A business set-up by a group of friends, the café that opened its doors this month aims to promote social interaction and networking among youngsters, while raising awareness among the general public about the needs and challenges facing disabled people.   

“We are like any other business because we have to turn a profit and the quality of service is very important,” Edlira Nasi, one of the founders, said.

“However, as a social business, the profits are not for us but will be reinvested to expand the staff or open a new location,” she added.

The 2011 census recorded 137,435 people having some sort of disability in Albania.

A recent study by the Organization for Security and Co-operation, OSCE, in Europe showed young people with disabilities face significant challenges, particularly in areas such as employment, education and access to a social life.

Nasi explains that the idea to open the coffee shop materialized more than a year ago, when, faced with the difficulty of meeting a disabled friend over coffee, she and three friends decided to open one of their own.

Realizing that the majority of venues lacked access for disabled people, Nasi started the project for the Ejona café and approached the Yunus Social Business incubator for funding.

Yunus Social Business, YSB, is company that helps set up start-up funds and provides advice to companies, governments, foundations and NGOs.

YSB was co-founded by Peace Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus, Saskia...

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