The Beauty of Compassion: 60% of Staff at Movie Theater in Connecticut Has a Disability


*We know how hard it is to get a job these days. Just ask most unemployed people. People with a job say things like, “Just go get a job at Target?” As if you can ever down-play your multiple skillset to the point that they’d believe you can be counted on…once you get “over this rough spot.” Well, imagine having a disability and looking for a job. Ever imagine how hard that must be? Which makes the compassion shown by a movie theater in Connecticut stand out from the rest. They took the extra step and actually gave these applicants the opportunity to show their skills, and now its really paying off. The  nonprofit movie theater is committed to giving people with physical or developmental disabilities an opportunity to succeed in the workforce.

More than half of the staff at the Prospector Theater in Ridgefield, are people with disabilities.

“It’s an incredibly talented pool,” Mike Santini, director of development for the organization told The Huffington Post. “They’re an untapped resource. They’re really excited about their jobs, and they’re really dedicated. They just need a workplace that’s accommodating and welcoming.”

The year 2013 showed only 17.6 percent of individuals with disabilities actually had a job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, (for comparison 64 percent of people without a disability were employed at that time).

Santini told HuffPost that the sister of the Prospect Theater’s founder, Valerie Jensen, has Down syndrome. Santini then began to realize there was a lack of programs in place to  address the reality of  unemployment among people with disabilities.

“One thing that [Jensen] saw was a problem that there were so many resources for different activities, like crafts and art projects,” Santini explained. “But across the board they were all lacking employment opportunities.”


The movie theater hopes to work against misconceptions, and help them by proving that people with disabilities are valuable employees. The Prospector Theater, which opened this past November, trained its workers, who serve popcorn, make drinks and greet patrons as ushers, using a specialized process so they are better able to master their tasks.

“Traditional employment just places people with disabilities in training programs not tailored to them. But we give individualized training,” Santini told HuffPost. “For making popcorn, we have the standard manual. But we also have a comic strip that can show them how to do it. And also a video, and different training materials, depending on the learner.”

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