There is a new and exciting communication friendly café in Epping called Chancez.
Araluen, an organisation providing services to people with intellectual and other disabilities, has been involved with the North West Communication Coordinators Network for about eight years. As part of the network, teaching support workers an understanding of how to use visual supports and augmentative strategies to help people manage communication and literacy difficulties has been important. This can be seen in practice with the café Araluen has set up to provide employment for some of their clients.
Working in a café calls for many skills, the obvious being making coffee and serving customers. Behind the scenes there is a much wider range of challenges – working the register, managing the food on sale and adhering to safe food handling practices, managing money and giving correct change, keeping things clean and organised, ordering new supplies and the right amount of them . . . and so on.
All of these activities involve communication in a range of forms. Having an intellectual disability can compromise a person’s communication skills, and so the café needs to have many systems in place to support the staff to run it well. This café certainly has that!
The clients involved were initially enrolled in a food handling course (which included barista training), but while this gave them some technical skills, they had no opportunity for developing customer service skills. Working at Chancez café gives them the practical experience needed to work in more mainstream settings.
Leigh, the manager of the café, has worked with the staff/clients to problem solve ways that they can manage all the tasks required, including adhering to all OH&S and safe food handling guidelines relevant to running a café.
She worked with the team at Ordermate to adapt a POS (Point of Sale) system for the order register so that it is largely picture-based. Staff can see photos of the range of drinks on offer, and can select the appropriate picture to put through the order. There are plans to expand this to include the food items for sale. It has images of coins and notes to help staff work out how much change to give the customer, and many other things. And Leigh hasn’t “dumbed it down” for the staff. The café offers ALL the possible varieties of coffee drinks (and there are many!), several different milks (eg. soy, almond, low fat) as well as a range of teas.
The coffee machine is labeled for the range of different drinks, and staff learn to match the docket with the coffee machine and the correct cups/glasses for the drink are stacked near the label. There’s even a picture system to use the correct milk from the range on offer!
Other picture/photo/object based supports include:
- a colour guide for the different cloths associated with different activities eg. “blue cloths for milk wand and jugs only”; “red cloths for dishwashing only”.
- a photo guide for the range of jobs to do and a system to indicate when the job is done
- colour-coding for food and drink categories
- another colour-coding system to manage the expiry date of the food that hasn’t been sold
- using milk container lids and labels to help buy what’s needed at the shop down the street
There are many other systems supported by pictures/photos and objects – too many to mention here. You’ll just have to go out to the Multi-Cultural Hub in Epping and see for yourself!
The Multi-Cultural Hub hosts many community and disability specific services and is frequented by people from a wide range of cultural backgrounds, often with little skills in English; such a communication accessible café is perfect for them!
The skill and confidence of the staff have grown. One person, with a stutter that would stop him talking to people, can now order supplies on the phone. Another used to speak so softly he was often inaudible, but has learned that he needs to speak louder for customers to hear him. One man has taken on the role of mentor and has begun to support other staff who may be newer or less skilled.
Chancez resonates with a strong ethical base. They have a pay-it-forward system, where a customer can pay for two coffees – one for themselves and the second for someone else who may not have the money for it. Little Things, a social enterprise coffee roaster supplies the coffee and left-over food is donated to those that need it.
Plans for the future include making food (gingerbread has been recently on offer for tasting), and extending the visual supports to include photos of regular customers linked to their usual order on the order register. Staff can then start making a customer’s preferred drink as soon as they walk in the door!
This is an inspiring example of capacity building through a comprehensive and continually evolving use of visual supports and augmentative strategies. These strategies enable people with intellectual and communication difficulties to perform a wide range of tasks successfully, leading to a growth in their confidence, skill and personal capacity.
Congratulations to Araluen for its vision, Leigh for her innovative use of visual supports and continued problem-solving, and most of all, the staff for their ongoing learning and for giving great service!
Chancez has recently been featured in a range of media including the Epping Star newspaper and on Channel nine. Check out the links below for more!
Chancez Cafe’ facebook:
North West Regional Communication Service