Beloved McDonald's worker in Australia retires after three decades

A man with down syndrome who 30 years ago offered hope to many with disabilities in Australia after securing a job at McDonald's announced his retirement from the fast-food chain in order to focus on his health, reports said.

A beloved employee of an Australian McDonald's retired last week to take care of his health after three decades with the fast-food chain, reports said.

Russell O'Grady, 50, joined the company in the 1980s. He was considered a trailblazer because he was one of the first 100 people in the country to secure regular employment with down syndrome, Australia's News.com.au reported, citing The Hill Shire Times.

O'Grady, who began working at Northmead's McDonald's in 1986 at age 18, found his job through Job Support, an organization that offers job placement for people with moderate intellectual abilities, New Zealand's Stuff.co.nz reported.

“We were pioneers in proving that people in Australia with a moderate disability can value-add to the workforce. Prior to 1986, if you were someone with a moderate disability, you had to stay on the lounge at home," Gabrielle Bartlett, of Jobsupport, told The Times.

O'Grady broke down barriers for those with down syndrome to enter the workforce, she said.

Geoff O'Grady, his father, previously told Daily Mail Australia that people would stop his son on the street just to shake his hand. He said his son's career gave him a "different outlook on life," according to The Mail.

"Somebody said to him ''are you handicapped?''' and his answer was, "I used to be when I went to school, but now I work at McDonald's,''' he said.

Northmead is about 30 minutes northwest of Sydney.