S1-Ep36_Yannick_Benjamin_and_George_Gallego

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By Springboard Productions, Nadine Vogel, Springboard Productions, and Nadine Vogel. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Season 1, Episode 36 Co-Hosts: Nadine Vogel & Norma Stanley Guest: Yannick Benjamin and George Gallego

Intro: [Music playing in background] Disabled Lives Matter... here we go!

Voiceover: Hello and welcome to this week's episode of the disabled lives matter podcast with co-hosts Nadine Vogel and Norma Stanley… yay!

Nadine Vogel: Okay Hello everyone and welcome to this episode of disabled lives matter, yes, we are a podcast but more than that, we are a movement and this movement, I am joined by my co host the amazing Norma Stanley.

NORMA STANLEY: Hello everybody.

Nadine Vogel: Hello.

Nadine Vogel: I can't believe it's November.

Nadine Vogel: Does anybody else have that shock I I know it comes every year.

Nadine Vogel: Thanksgiving comes every year, but I don't know I always seem to be surprised by it.

NORMA STANLEY: Time's has flown by this year.

Nadine Vogel: Time is flying absolutely, so we are joined by two fabulous guests, today we have Yannick Benjamin and George Gallego, I would like to start with you Yannick, and I can tell us just a little bit about who you are what you do and why you do it.

Yannick Benjamin: yeah so thank you both for having me on it's such an honor very excited but a long story short, my whole background is in the hospitality industry i'm also born and raised in New York, both of my parents.

Nadine Vogel: Woo!

NORMA STANLEY: Yay!

[Lots of laughter]

Norma Stanley: We are New Yorkers too.

Yannick Benjamin: Yeah, good okay we're like the last of the Mohicans you know what I mean. yeah but I really you know, had a really great childhood, I think, overall, I mean I grew up on 47 street and 10th avenue you know right down the block from Times Square.

Yannick Benjamin: You know, and my parents were incredibly generous and really good honest, hard working people and I just kind of followed in their footsteps they were both in the hospitality industry.

Yannick Benjamin: And that's what I wanted to do from a very early age and basically.

Yannick Benjamin: I was able bodied working in restaurants loving every minute of it and in 2003 I was in a car accident that left me permanently paralyzed but really through the support.

Yannick Benjamin: Through the love through the just the motivation that I was surrounded by was able to continue to pursue.

Yannick Benjamin: That objective my dream of working in restaurants working in hospitality and and you know co founding a restaurant that I currently have.

Yannick Benjamin: With George Gallego, and so I would be I would I would be the biggest biggest liar to say I did this on my own, I was very blessed to be surrounded by so many great people.

Nadine Vogel: And, and the name of the restaurant is Contento. yes.

Yannick Benjamin: Contento. exactly correct.

Nadine Vogel: In East Harlem I think right.

Yannick Benjamin: that's right 88 East 111 street between Park and Madison.

NORMA STANLEY: that's where I used to live.

Nadine Vogel: To all our listening listeners, this is where you guys need to go right.

NORMA STANLEY: Awesome.

Nadine Vogel: This is where you need to do and you're also the Co founder I think of a program called Wine on Wheels.

Yannick Benjamin: Correct correct and so Wine of Wheels our initiative is really to bring awareness raise money, especially our main initiative is really to kind of.

Yannick Benjamin: You know, bring awareness, to the hospitality industry about inclusivity about breaking barriers, hopefully, within the next few years, along with George Gallego i'm really trying to see.

Yannick Benjamin: You know, restaurants, hotels in any other forms of hospitality businesses to employ more people with disabilities and to help them along the way, as well.

Yannick Benjamin: And that's really the goal and the objective and then also to raise money for programs, like the Access Project that George Diego will tell you more about shortly.

Nadine Vogel: Excellent excellent, and I know that for both of you, your tagline you put in places "access for all," and I, you know that says it all right. I think that says it all.

Nadine Vogel: And, and you know I love I love Yannick that as a sommelier.

Yannick Benjamin: I finally got that right.

Nadine Vogel: i'm feeling you take it you've taken this background that you have and its talent and turned it into something that not only is good for people of all walks of life, but especially for individuals with disabilities, which.

Nadine Vogel: And it was really important we always say you know disabled lives really do matter well.

Yannick Benjamin: sure.

Nadine Vogel: Is this is it right so George tell us a little bit about your background and what you're doing.

George G.: you're so born and raised in New York.

Nadine Vogel: Woo!

George G.: we're all native new yorkers.

George G.: And and really raised and raised in brooklyn in williamsburg a which has evolved quite a bit, just like East Harlem has come a very long way from from word was back in the days.

NORMA STANLEY: Yes.

Nadine Vogel: I'm a Bronx girl.

George G.: All good. Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan.

George G.: Queens we're all new Yorkers so it's all good so as far as as far as disabilities concern I wasn't born with a disability, I, too, had an accident which caused me to become spinal cord injured.

George G.: I fell from a height equivalent to three stories while working landed on my back from the impact I severed my spinal cord.

George G.: So both Yannick and I, and I are spinal cord injured his level is a little higher than mine.

George G.: I am a T-10, T-11 I think Yannick you're a.

Yannick Benjamin: T-six.

George G.: T-six Okay, which which basically the so the main there's a difference in in everyone and every disability that everyone has experienced, but the difference between Yannick and I is basically.

George G.: The abs right, I may have a few more abs then Yannick is his injury starts from the chest upward and mine actually starts from the naval upward.

Yannick Benjamin: much, much better looking stomach than I do you know I got that little kangaroo pouch you know.

George G.: You know you look good.

George G.: so late in life really was extremely challenging after my injury, because I went from a very active lifestyle to live in a very sedentary lifestyle, I went from 160, 170 pounds up to 350 pounds.

George G.: And yeah and that's that's what happens when you rely on pain meds to deal with any any nerve issues that you may have, as well as spasms and pain in general.

George G.: So, but it took me 10 years to actually turn that around once I realized that my life was heading like quickly in a downward spiral.

George G.: I decided to first start working on myself physically, so I started exercising doing simple things and then over time, I was able to drop the weight on back down to about one well i'm I weighed less than I did before. So i'm probably at 155.

Nadine Vogel: Excellent.

George G.: And.

Nadine Vogel: Congratulations.

George G.: Thank you, thank you and I realized that getting physical getting involved in athletics.

George G.: played a huge role in my ability to be able to bounce back so primarily because once I was able to embrace my physical self everything else.

George G.: flowed after that I was able to embrace myself mentally emotionally and just move onward and upward so as far as as far as my work history is concerned, as I worked, I was in a newspaper industry, I won't name the company, I worked for cause they were horrible after my injury.

George G.: But yeah but everything changes after injury, you find yourself reinventing yourself not just once but over and over and over and if you're able to accept the fact that life will just continue to evolve, then, then you can live life to the fullest.

George G.: As far as Contento is concerned, I have never been involved in the hospitality industry in a way that Yannick was.

George G.: Never worked in a restaurant, although I love to visit restaurants.

George G.: The but the work that I have done and Yannick really helped me realize that, although I didn't work directly in the hospitality world i've always been.

George G.: involved in in giving and transfer helping transform lives, so, in a sense, thanks to the Yannick, I was able to view this through a different lens.

George G.: So the work that i've done in helping others and helping people find their path in life was similar to what Yannick has been doing all his life in the hospitality industry right, it was really all about making feel making folks feel comfortable.

George G.: With themselves and with with their surroundings and helping them really just move forward, you know embrace and move on.

Nadine Vogel: Excellent. Thank you i'm curious I mean, I have some very specific questions for both of you or relative to the business, but I am curious how did the two of you come together.

George G.: yeah. It's a long story. So.

[Laughter]

George G.: yeah no we We will give you the condensed version.

Nadine Vogel: Okay.

George G.: So so i've been injured for almost 30 years now and Yannick and Yannick has you're going on 18 years.

Yannick Benjamin: eighteen correct correct exactly.

George G.: Exactly so when.

George G.: So when you Yannick was first injured, I was part of a mentoring program and that's how we initially connected, I always Yannick and I will connected through the mentoring program at Mount Sinai hospital.

George G.: and also through.

George G.: The New York City chapter of the United spinal association and our our connection our friendship had evolved from that point onward.

Nadine Vogel: Very cool really yeah it's it's it's a great story and we haven't even started with the story yet oh my gosh.

Nadine Vogel: So, so you know talk to us a little bit about what are the challenges that you guys face having a disability owned restaurant, you know I mean, I think I think restaurant ownership is tough, no matter what.

Nadine Vogel: We add covid to it, of late it got tougher, but I suspect that you know, having disabilities has made it if not tougher at least very different so i'd love to hear about that.

Yannick Benjamin: Well, I mean I you know i'll speak for myself, you know I think what what's really important to emphasize is that exactly what George just said, because he's in a wheelchair and I'm in a wheelchair.

Yannick Benjamin: We, we do have different needs and we we do things differently, based on our level of injury and this applies to people in the low vision community.

Yannick Benjamin: Hard of Hearing everyone's got different needs, so I think that's you know one thing that we really have to emphasize, you know so it's a very broad category.

Yannick Benjamin: As for me, you know it's been really a blessing in disguise, in the best possible way, and when I tell you that, Contento.

Yannick Benjamin: Is a beast I say that, in the most polite way it is incredibly busy, and you know for listen i'm you know i'm a 44 year old guy right and.

Yannick Benjamin: For an able body person working in a place that's it's physically demanding you've got to move, you know even for myself, you know I worked out every day I take care of myself and eat right, you know.

Yannick Benjamin: and physically like at the end of the day, I am like wiped you know and and not only that, but um you know you've got to be on right, so you know that that emotional connection you've got to constantly be on your.

Yannick Benjamin: On your in my case, not on my toes but on my wheels right and so that that can be really you know.

Yannick Benjamin: You know draining mentally and then and then physically just you know bending here bending there all of that, you know what what what might be easier for an able body person when they're serving wine.

Yannick Benjamin: For me it's really taking that effort so that, from a personal standpoint um you know takes a lot out, you know it is, it is exhausting and I would I would never try to.

Yannick Benjamin: camouflage and pretend that i'm Superman that that oh yeah yeah yeah i'm doing it just like everybody know it takes a lot for sure.

Nadine Vogel: Right, right. No, I get it so i'm curious, if you think about you know people that you admire and then this goes to both of you, you know it's there's someone out there, that you say I just I really admired the most.

Yannick Benjamin: I look, I mean George George there I guess.

Nadine Vogel: George.

Yannick Benjamin: All right, I mean yeah I mean listen, first and foremost, I think you know, obviously the the person that the two people that I admire the most who definitely my parents.

Yannick Benjamin: I am, where I am today because of them my value system is based on who they are, and what they taught me and and i'm just simply practicing what I learned from them.

Yannick Benjamin: But I was also very much influenced by the Christian brothers that were teachers in my elementary school.

Yannick Benjamin: So I do have a deep admiration for some of them that I grew up with you know.

Yannick Benjamin: That taught me, I mean, obviously we already know we don't have to go too deep but there's certainly a lot a lot, a lot of things that I definitely disagree with.

Yannick Benjamin: The in the Catholic religion but as far as who they were and how they.

Yannick Benjamin: empowered me and how they influenced me I I owe a great deal to them, I always admired their servitude the fact that they sacrifice the greater good to have an approach of family or being in a relationship.

Yannick Benjamin: So yeah I would say, those are people that I definitely admire there's a gentleman to that I worked with at Le Cirque, which is a very famous restaurant that's now close his name is.

Yannick Benjamin: Ciro Marchioni and I often find myself thinking about him every day, a lot, you know and he's someone that I definitely deeply admired as well.

Nadine Vogel: And it was that, because of what he built and what he did in the industry.

Yannick Benjamin: yeah I mean I think he was like you know, Mr cool right.

Yannick Benjamin: And I I always loved me he just simply had that kind of cool factor that it factor and.

Yannick Benjamin: You know I met him when I was a very young kid getting into this industry and Le Cirque at that time was the Center of the universe and.

Yannick Benjamin: He just kind of invited me in that world and I wouldn't say that he he really grabbed me my my my my by my hand but he you know, without he in directly impacted my life.

Yannick Benjamin: Very much to who I am today So yes, yes, someone that I, I always think about.

Nadine Vogel: So, so when we think about you know Norma and I talked about that you know will go out to restaurants, will take our daughters, who have disabilities will go out with us.

Nadine Vogel: You know I remember when my older daughter was younger and she was being fed through G tube and we're feeding her in the middle of a restaurant right, you know lots lots of issues, so I certainly understand the importance of creating this this culture of inclusivity in the. Industry.

Nadine Vogel: But maybe you could talk to us about you know how do we get from here to there, because if.

Nadine Vogel: there's a lot right, this is the employees, like you talked about.

Nadine Vogel: and hiring people in the hospitality industry that had disabilities but it's also how we serve people with disabilities.

Yannick Benjamin: correct and I think that's a great question and it's a it's a really important topic right because it's.

Yannick Benjamin: First and foremost, you can create a restaurant or a business that has perfect universal design that's barrier free.

Yannick Benjamin: But if you don't have that culture of empathy if you don't have that culture of welcoming and just you know have your stuff educated on how to deal with.

Yannick Benjamin: People of all different backgrounds than that universal design is useless right, it means absolutely nothing.

Yannick Benjamin: And so I think you know one obviously that continuation of education, the other side, and when I say, the other side, meaning people that work in the industry.

Yannick Benjamin: In the restaurant and the hotel and any other business, the ability to be able to listen, the ability to be able to see like I don't know, and I want to learn, please teach me.

Yannick Benjamin: With That being said, I know, when I go to a restaurant i'm a full time wheelchair user i'm paralyzed from the waist down.

Yannick Benjamin: I get it, I understand that I can't expect everybody to possibly know what I need right, so I feel like as long as I ate they have this energy of like him, and we are so happy to have you here.

Yannick Benjamin: Is there anything that we can do to make you feel comfortable, are there any use simple terminology terminology, but.

Yannick Benjamin: You know I know that I can't go in there, thinking that they are going to know everything that I need so I feel like I have a responsibility, as someone with a disability to just simply guide them and direct them.

Yannick Benjamin: And that's all it takes and just kind of talk to them and they appreciate it, I feel like sometimes.

Yannick Benjamin: We may be in our Community, and when I say our Community, people with disabilities, we often expect the other side to know things.

Yannick Benjamin: And you know what we do have a we have a responsibility, one to advocate for ourselves, but let's reach over the aisle.

Yannick Benjamin: And let let's use that opportunity to teach them and that's what it comes down to so you know not only just beat not only advocacy but also being an ambassador for the disability community, we have to also do that as well. Does that answer your question.

Nadine Vogel: Yeah absolutely it's um and you right there's so much there because you know someone can come in the restaurant, who is blind, so we can come in who's a wheelchair users someone can come in who's death, I mean you know.

Nadine Vogel: there's all different disabilities, but I think to your point it's it's a it's two parts right it's you being willing and able to convey your needs but it's, on the other side for the restaurant owner and management to be willing to receive the information.

Yannick Benjamin: Yes

Nadine Vogel: And accommodate as needed.

Nadine Vogel: And I think that last part is the part that many of us struggle with. Sometimes.

Yannick Benjamin: Yes yeah no no absolutely I mean listen it's up I think it's a it's a constant.

Yannick Benjamin: evolution, which is great I think we're definitely years behind, maybe even decades behind on where we should be with accommodations for people with disabilities, of all backgrounds intellectual physical neurological you name it.

Yannick Benjamin: But I do think that things have started to happen, I mean listen um and, as I say, always and George as well there's there's over 60 million Americans with disabilities, I think it's a one in four and so those are numbers that we can no longer ignore because we have to take seriously.

Yannick Benjamin: You know so that's that's where we're at right now, and I think that people that that own restaurants people that work in restaurants or any kind of hospitality, outlet.

Yannick Benjamin: has to say hey you know, we need to figure this out, because there are people that have a disability that want to spend money.

Yannick Benjamin: But they're not going out they're not going out because.

Yannick Benjamin: There is fear of rejection this fear of like i'm going to go there and they're going to make me feel uncomfortable so what may seem like an expensive concept to make your restaurant accessible but long term your return on investment.

Yannick Benjamin: is going to be there and we have seen that at Contento and i'll tell you what I want to make this very clear, you know, first and foremost foremost we're you know we're a small restaurant right.

Yannick Benjamin: We really are ideally you know if we could, if we had the money we had the resources we would have a restaurant that's 5000 square feet.

Yannick Benjamin: and tables be spaced out, we will do the whole shebang that's not the reality of it, but the most important thing is creating a culture of.

Yannick Benjamin: have been inviting have an empathy and saying hey we are here for you just tell us what you need to do what you need and we're going to make it happen.

Nadine Vogel: Right right absolutely and norma, I mean Sierra your daughter she's she uses a wheelchair, so I mean you live this every day right.

NORMA STANLEY: Absolutely, and I just love the fact that you know what he said, where it is the onus is on us to as customers.

NORMA STANLEY: With them family members with wheelchairs or individuals who may be using wheelchairs, or may have a disability, just to kind of I guess put pride aside and say you know what I could use your help in this area.

NORMA STANLEY: In your.

NORMA STANLEY: establishment to make you more comfortable just something that I guess you know we don't do, and we do probably expect more of the.

Yannick Benjamin. Yes.

NORMA STANLEY: People at the restaurant or at the establishment and they may actually prepared.

NORMA STANLEY: right to be able to address, so this a two-way street um but at the same time, you know I just think I love this and to be able to eat at your restaurant next time I'm in New York.

NORMA STANLEY: That's my old neighborhood.

Nadine Vogel: Well you know. It's it's one of these things you know i've been to many restaurants and I go to use the restroom and they'll say yes, you know there is an accessible restroom, but then there's like a high chair, or something blocking.

NORMA STANLEY: Oh.

Nadine Vogel: You have to.

Nadine Vogel: navigate around you can't get in there and i'm thinking really.

Nadine Vogel: You know, and I and i'm.

Nadine Vogel: I have no issue saying something and and I,

Yanick Benjamin: Good.

Nadine Vogel: you know I say something all they time, but you know they look at me like I have four heads it it's just.

Nadine Vogel: Yes, really I just makes me makes me crazy well, we need, we must, I could well I don't even want to stop, but we need to take a short commercial break.

Nadine Vogel: But when we come back, we are going to talk more with Yannick Benjamin and with George Gallego and we will find George we may have lost him oh.

Nadine Vogel: So stay tuned everybody don't go anywhere.

Voiceover: And now it's time for a commercial break.

[COMMERCIAL] Have you attended a springboard Consulting event? Well, you should, we have the best events and our 2022 events are just under way. Firstly is the Brg Summit happening on Tuesday, April 26th, and then following that is Disability Matters. North America Conference and Awards that's happening Wednesday and Thursday, April, 27 and 28. Both events are being delivered by a live stream. If interested in attending, please visit www.consultspringboard.com for more information.

Voiceover: And now back to our show.

Nadine Vogel: Hello everyone and welcome back to today's episode of disabled lives matter we are here with the amazing Yannick Benjamin.

Nadine Vogel: and his business partner George Gallego and we're talking about there with sounds like an fabulous restaurant I can't wait to go Contento in East Harlem and you know.

Nadine Vogel: When we when we left before commercial break, we were talking about asking for what you need right, and you know I brought up the example of your restaurants that yeah, this is an accessible restroom you just can't get in there, but, but we have one so.

Nadine Vogel: You know it's one of these things where.

Nadine Vogel: it's what you know what does it take first and foremost, to have a great restaurant, what are the key components of having a great restaurant and then How does that change if it changes to be a great restaurant and i'm going to put this in quotes for all.

Yannick Benjamin: Right. Well, first of all, first and foremost almost i'm always shocked when I meet people that work in the hospitality industry and they tell me how they hate people.

Yannick Benjamin: Very strange thing to hear, but you, you know if you're going to be in this industry you've got to like people you've got to be able to like to interact hear their stories and and, first and foremost.

Yannick Benjamin: sort of kind of make them the priority right it's about creating experience for them now, I want to make one thing very clear, I am not I don't believe in that philosophy that the customer is always right.

NORMA STANLEY: Right.

Yannick Benjamin: I don't do that because I think that there's plenty of times, where the customer is wrong.

Yannick Benjamin: And I tell the rest of the staff at Contento that if you feel at any moment that someone is making you feel uncomfortable or being disrespectful.

Yannick Benjamin: Do not take that or let me know, and I will handle it I think that's really important especially.

Yannick Benjamin: Now that we're heading into this new era post covid you really you really have to love people, you have to be passionate about food and and and beverage.

Yannick Benjamin: And within that figure out what it would genre you really are passionate about whether it's South American Food French, Italian, whatever it is, it could be anything fast food doesn't make a difference.

Yannick Benjamin: So you you the food that you serve the beverages that you serve are all stuff that you would be willing to eat yourself and something that you would.

Yannick Benjamin: enjoy at your own home, so I think if you do that, then you've got to create an ambience I mean you can have the best, the most expensive interior designer.

Yannick Benjamin: create your restaurant, but if it doesn't have the energy and the ambiance of welcoming then it's going to be a total utter failure, and I think the best restaurants that i've ever been to sometimes they just have a very minimalist approach.

Yannick Benjamin: But when you go there it's just like it.

Yannick Benjamin: there's this energy of welcoming and love and i'm like okay that's it and I think listen Contento certainly has been able to do that for sure so you've got to be able to create that energy that's that's, the most important thing okay.

NORMA STANLEY: I agree.

Nadine Vogel: So. How did you and George actually come together to to you know, in terms of Contento, specifically like what was what was the idea.

Yannick Benjamin: yeah so George is all as he likes to describe himself and I totally agree he calls himself a social entrepreneur, you know, and it was always on the go he's got his hands in different projects, I was working you know all the time in different restaurants different hospitality establishments.

Yannick Benjamin: And George being the mentor that he is and just kind of the go getters a Yannick like why don't you work for yourself hey i'm working for other people and i'm like George this industry's, a beast.

Yannick Benjamin: It is hard like yeah I don't know.

Yannick Benjamin: Well, anyway, fast forward right down the block from where he lives because he lives on 111 between park and Madison at this in this beautiful building.

Yannick Benjamin: And there was a spot that was open, he said, I think there's something very interesting, you should come check it out and I looked at it and the rent was incredibly low was like almost like hard to believe, and he said I would love to be involved, and you know that's.

Yannick Benjamin: that's all she wrote after that.

Nadine Vogel: That that's that's that's amazing that really is I love the simplicity of that don't you norma.

NORMA STANLEY: it's the connection that's what I call it and exactly and actually my in laws live a block away.

NORMA STANLEY: From your restaurant so.

NORMA STANLEY: I will defintely be they're on 110th and.

NORMA STANLEY: park.

Yannick Benjamin: Oh well, have them come by we would love to have them. Absolutely.

NORMA STANLEY: Absolutely.

Nadine Vogel: So George. Your back yay!

George G.: I'm Back yeah so I.

George G.: So, as I mentioned earlier, I'm at the space that we're building out and my HVAC guys are here and we, the power went down temporarily I didn't realize it happened until.

George G.: The Internet and everything went down.

George G.: So we had connection, but not.

Nadine Vogel: No problem.

Nadine Vogel: So so George let me ask you this, what do you think it's going to take to get more people with disabilities in the hospitality industry.

Nadine Vogel: Because I can see so many different issues like we don't have more so, what do you think it's going to take.

George G.: So I so Yannick is going to handle one part, and together we'll handle the second part, so.

George G.: Yannick has already started the movement within the.

George G.: hospitality industry and he's got folks really accepting idea of having people with disabilities all types of disabilities within their workspace.

George G.: There are certain things as a person, as a person with a mobility impairment, that I can do.

George G.: Obviously, certain things that I cannot do and I accept that but i'm willing to do the best that I can do in those areas that I can actually maneuver.

George G.: And, and so folks within the hospitality industry are receptive to the message right, but the second part is to get folks in a disability community.

George G.: To to believe in themselves and and and realize that they can change to the point where they can actually move on in life and accepted a position and hospitality industry.

George G.: But there's so many fears involved, you know within folks in the disability Community you know people are afraid of losing their their healthcare benefits they're afraid to you to lose their.

George G.: Their fixed incomes, the SSI or the ssdI and many don't realize that that life will definitely change it become better once you actually have a sustainable income that's not a fixed income.

George G.: So, so what Yannick and I intend on doing is within within the space of Content, and also whether this new space that we're building in East Harlem.

George G.: We plan plan on utilizing both spaces to create programs to focus on on on making these changes within the minds of the folks that we're working with whether it's it's the folks in the hospitality industry or our comrades in a disability Community.

Nadine Vogel: Excellent excellent.

Nadine Vogel: I imagine is like fears of you know, even just accessibility of the kitchens right, if not, if not the the dining rooms themselves just the kitchens, because I know we have a whole team that does.

Nadine Vogel: Universal design physical accessibility audit things like that and we've gone into restaurants and we've gotten even into corporations, where they've had you know, on site cafeterias and we go into the kitchen and we look around and we're like yeah no this won't work.

Yannick Benjamin: yeah Nadine, I just want to say one thing, I think, though, I you know one thing that's a major issue, too, is if we had universal health care if we, had guaranteed like.

Yannick Benjamin: medicaid was provided just across the board, I think it would relieve some of the anxieties that that most people with disabilities have.

Yannick Benjamin: And I think one of the main issues now imagine if you're just able body right and you found yourself working at like a really good hotel company right let's say the Marriott right where they offer pretty great benefits great.

Yannick Benjamin: private insurance and you have a very intimate relationship with your Ob gyn your gynecologist your your urologist right.

Yannick Benjamin: And all of a sudden there's a new job that there's an opportunity right.

Yannick Benjamin: You may not take that job only for the fact, because the insurance that they're offering now is no longer in network with the Ob gyn the gynecologist your urologist that you've been seeing for all that time.

Yannick Benjamin: And you know the system that we have it there's a form of oppression toward with it.

Yannick Benjamin: And so that in itself is an issue, so if you if you if you rely on a home attendant to come in two hours in the morning to get you out of bed.

Yannick Benjamin: You know you're relying on 150 catheters you know now you're kind of playing with fire, because you don't know what that private insurance can do to you right you don't.

Yannick Benjamin: And so, that is the biggest issue, and so what we need to do is get really powerful voices in the hospitality industry to come together and why not get a nationalized.

Yannick Benjamin: Healthcare insurance plan, and I think if you get that locked in, I can tell you, you will see more people more.

Yannick Benjamin: Not more diverse people working in the industry, but it's still an industry that's incredibly volatile and lock structure and until we get that down I think it's going to be very complicated.

Nadine Vogel: So i'm i'm imagining that the two of you are going after Congress going after all the major industry organizations speaking at their conferences, yes.

George G.: All I wanted was to open a small restaurant that's all I wanted.

George G.: And it's now evolved into this.

George G.: This this movement, which is, which is really it's really amazing and it's not something that that we anticipated but it's the path that we're on now.

Nadine Vogel: yeah. No you guys.

Nadine Vogel: should be at these like you know industry, conferences and be talking about this right, this is.

NORMA STANLEY: I was on a recent conversation with one of the food writers for the nations restaurant news magazine, and I definitely think that y'all should have a conversation.

Nadine Vogel: Norma can you make an introduction.

NORMA STANLEY: Definitely do that I can definitely do it.

Nadine Vogel: All right, yeah we got we got to get this story out there bigger bigger, better because.

Nadine Vogel: it's that important so we've been talking about all the really cool things positive things any regrets anything you would do differently.

George G.: I. thing that.

George G.: Personally I.

George G.: We i've had so many experiences in life great experiences horrible experiences manageable experiences, but i've never been one to say that I regret any of my experiences because i'm who I am today because of the sum of all of my experience.

Nadine Vogel: So I wouldn't change it.

George G.: I would just just learn from it and keep on moving forward.

Nadine Vogel: got it okay Yannick.

Yannick Benjamin: Oh God, I mean again um what would I have done differently, I mean listen there's I think you know I certainly don't regret because I think that one thing that I will say is that.

Yannick Benjamin: There are mistakes that have been done not purposely and you learn from them and you try to improve and improve upon them, and you build upon that you know it's sort of like you know layer by layer by layer and so.

Yannick Benjamin: That that's what I I try to do I think that's what George tries to do that's what we all try to do.

George G.: Absolutely.

Yannick Benjamin: and really and that's the key.

Nadine Vogel: yeah no absolutely, so we are running out of time which is really sad because I could talk to you guys, like all day.

Nadine Vogel: um.

Nadine Vogel: Let me ask one last question, if I may, and if there's anybody dead or alive that you could sit down and have dinner with who would it be.

Yannick Benjamin: You want to go first George.

George G.: Sure, so my my father passed.

George G.: In 1990 and he hadn't never had a chance to see or experience anything that I seen and experienced so I would love to be able to bring him back.

George G.: Just so that I can show him what has become of his son and his other children and my children as well, he never had a chance to meet his grandkids, so I would love to bring them back have a sit down right like they do, and in Yannick's world, you know the mafioso guys.

George G.: Only kidding and.

George G.: You know and introduce him to my life.

George G.: and to the people that i'm surrounded by.

George G.: So, and you Yannick.

Yannick Benjamin: yeah I mean I mean someone you know kind of I i've never met my grandfather on my father's side who actually went blind.

Yannick Benjamin: In his in his 40s he was a farmer lived in the middle of the country, so not much access, but you know i'd love to have a conversation with him and and.

Yannick Benjamin: kind of like George just kind of tell him what i'm up to and and understand what his I mean you know I can't imagine what it was like being a farmer during World War one World War Two in France under the occupation.

Yannick Benjamin: and have going blind, you know, for you know so i'm sure he's got plenty of stories so yeah.

Nadine Vogel: Well, I gotta tell you my goal.

Nadine Vogel: Is next time i'm in Manhattan next time i'm up there is to have dinner with the.

Nadine Vogel: Two of you, at Contento.

Nadine Vogel: That's my goal.

Nadine Vogel: So i'd norma any any closing remarks you like to make.

NORMA STANLEY: same thing, I look forward to checking your restaurant out i'm a foodie at heart, I love to cook and I would love to know what your menus are but we're going to find that in-person.

Nadine Vogel: yeah we're gonna go check that out well George Yannick Thank you so much you so illustrate the power of disability and that disabled lives really do matter, so we know all of our listeners they're gonna be like oh my gosh when I, how do I make a reservation, how do I get there, so we.

Nadine Vogel: can't wait.

Nadine Vogel: until the crowds start coming.

Nadine Vogel: yeah look forward to staying in touch guys Thank you again so much.

NORMA STANLEY: Yes, thank you.

Yannick Benjamin: Thank you for having us.

George G.: Thank you for having us. Have a great day.

Nadine Vogel: Okay bye-bye.

NORMA STANLEY: Have a blessed day.

Yannick Benjamin: You to.

George G.: Likewise and stay safe everyone.

NORMA STANLEY: You too.

Closing comment: [Music playing in background.] Thank you for listening to this week's episode of disabled lives matter. We look forward to seeing you next Thursday. Have a great week!

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52 episodes