Empowering The Differently-Abled Through Coffee
International Coffee Day is tomorrow and in honour of this day, we want to pay tribute to Foreword Coffee, a local coffee company and social enterprise that aims to realise the potential of differently-abled individuals.
Not only do they employ people with disabilities and special needs as their frontline staff, they also provide them with skills training to further enhance their careers in the F&B industry.
48-year-old Pauline was born deaf and this caused difficulties in her previous jobs when it came to interacting with ex-colleagues. She leapt at the opportunity to join Foreword Coffee having already been in the F&B industry prior to this. "I have always wanted to learn about coffee and make latte art," she explained. Now a supervisor at one of their outlets, she does everything from handling the cashier to serving customers. Patrons are generally kind and some write out their orders once they’ve had a chance to interact.
Foreword Coffee has also organised a few workshops at Rainbow Centre and this paved the way for the company to provide a job opportunity for the students upon graduation. 19-year-old Daniel, a former student who is now a part-time service crew, says that his autism doesn't hinder his ability to carry out his responsibilities. “People are nice and kind to me. I am happy."
Foreword Coffee’s co-founder, Lim Wei Jie, 27, says that the staff are undeterred by occasional mixed reactions from customers. "Our staff would guide customers by pointing or with simple writing on note pads, so that the communication with the public is still quite smooth."
But he is most adamant on not labelling his employees. "We think that labelling is unnecessary; instead, we want our customers to experience interacting with the staff as per usual and from there they can learn that actually it doesn't need to take a lot of different ways of communicating."
Wei Jie hopes that attitudes will gradually change for the better when it comes to hiring differently-abled individuals. "I actually hope that more people would be willing to interact and accept persons with disabilities. I think the general public also has to reach out to learn more about interacting with them so it's a two-way kind of communication and learning journey."
Civil Service College Buona Vista
31 North Buona Vista Road, Singapore 275983
Centre for Healthcare Innovation
18 Jalan Tan Tock Seng, #04-01, Singapore 308443
28 Orchard Road, Singapore 238832
Find out more about Foreword Coffee here