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The Bell Wisdom: Mauricio (General Manger/Gerente General)

At 16 years old, Mauricio began venturing off to the city away from his small town on the lookout for a job. Mauricio remembers that this was the age that young Costa Ricans began their adventure to find their own path for the future. After a long search, he found the job he was looking for: Taco Bell. By the time he decided to apply for the Taco Bell position, the Brand had only been established for about a year in Costa Rica. Now, 33 years later, he is a General Manager for Costa Rica and Panama. Mauricio had no idea that applying for that role was going to make such an incredible impact on his career, life, and community.

Throughout his time at Taco Bell, he met his wife through a co-worker, which led them to be the first couple to have a wedding ceremony at the Costa Rica Taco Bell. He and his wife went on to have two children, one of which is deaf – his name is Esteban. When the time came for Mauricio’s son Esteban to go to a high school, he and his family were running into challenges looking for a high school that could cater to their son’s needs.

During his search, he met with his son’s Program Coordinator. She asked him if his business had opportunities for people with disabilities. Mauricio responded that the restaurant business is all about speed, etc. and that’s why he doesn’t have anyone on his team with disabilities. And that’s when she said, “Your response is why my students are unable to find a job.” That’s when it hit him; he finally came face-to-face with the fact that his son was going to be entering a world that excluded him. That’s when he decided to offer three individuals with disabilities a job at his restaurant. And it didn’t take him long to realize that their determination and hard work were like nothing he’d ever seen.

The challenge of not finding an opportunity for his son to attend a high school opened his eyes to the challenges that a lot of people with disabilities face each day. That shift in perspective and the experience he had with his new hires led him to work with his franchisee, Jose Pacheco, to start their own program: Inclusion Sin Limites (Inclusion without Limits), which has now been around for over 13 years. It provides jobs within their restaurants to those with physical, cognitive, or hearing disabilities, allowing them to integrate into society like any other person. Today, 10% of their Team Members have some sort of disability and their goal is to reach 15% by end of 2023.

“The community has embraced this program and the media in Costa Rica sees Taco Bell as a leading example in their country to provide opportunities,” Mauricio said. “… families that have someone with disabilities tend to fall into poverty, because of the lack of resources. I strongly believe that these types of programs help address our poverty percentage. And I believe that the reason why this program has succeeded was that it did not start as a social movement, but as a teachable moment to show others that people with disabilities were just like the rest of us.”

His passion for this work helped set a movement to address inclusiveness in the food industry throughout his country. Over the course of these 13+ years, Mauricio has helped countless individuals have a fair opportunity and hopes that everyone has a chance at a better life.

“We should all question if our jobs will be ready to accept us [if we ever got a physical, cognitive, or hearing disability]. If not, then you should be wondering what you can do to make your workplace inclusive,” he said.

There are 240 million children living with disabilities in the world; half of them are out of school, many are invisible, hidden by their families and abandoned by their governments. If you want to support, head to www.unicefusa.org or disabilityin.org/ to learn more.