'Pizzability' owner saddened by 'cruel' treatment of disabled staff
TORONTO -- The owner of a Denver pizzeria staffed primarily by people with disabilities says she is struggling to keep the doors open after the restaurant went viral, prompting an influx of “cruel” customers.
Founded by Tiffany Fixter, a former special needs teacher, Pizzability saw a surge of popularity in July after a local journalist tweeted about Fixter’s hope to provide job training for adults with disabilities.
Though most small business owners would celebrate becoming the latest hot-spot for obligatory Instagram selfies, Fixter said the pizzeria’s sudden fame opened her eyes to the stigma people with disabilities often face.
“I wasn’t really prepared for the shock of it,” she said during an interview with CTV News Channel Friday. “I didn’t think people would be that cruel.”
The surge lasted all but two weeks, according to Fixter, who noted business has significantly slowed down in the months since. On multiple occasions, Fixter says people have ordered pizzas only to then take selfies, cancel their orders, and leave.
Her staff have also been subject to insults and slurs.
“Most people are great; there are some people that maybe need to learn patience and understanding. But overall we want to be an accepting place for people of all abilities,” she said.
“We really try to make sure everyone is welcome.”
Pizzability’s mission isn’t just to employ disabled adults who may have trouble finding work elsewhere. The restaurant itself has been designed to be accessible for people of all abilities, from weighted cutlery, braille labels, and extra wide spaces for wheelchairs.
The staff will even blend pizzas for those who are unable to eat solids.
But Fixter says all of these support measures have led to significant operating costs.
“We’re just trying to keep the doors open,” she said.
Hoping for support from afar, Fixter has pledged to deliver pizza to homeless communities and local shelters for anyone outside of the Denver area who orders a pizza by phone.