Barista Magazine

DEC 2017-JAN 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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F O A M : N E W S + T R E N D S ABLEISM IS AN ISSUE WE SHOULD START ADDRESSING IN THE COFFEE INDUSTRY Ableism, the systemic interpersonal and societal discrimination against people with disabilities, is pervasive in North American coffee culture, and nowhere more so than the very physical realm of roast- ing. As a motivated, progress-oriented industry, we are very well- equipped to start examining and dismantling ableism in the industry, but fi rst we have to identify that it exists, analyze how it operates, and accept that it's hurting everyone. The industry's general lack of inclusion of workers with physical disabilities or other physical limitations in the coffee-roasting commu- nity damages us on a fi scal level, by both restricting our labor force and putting our members at risk. Addressing ableism in our spaces is complex, but once we start to understand the various ways in which it currently holds us back, we can chip away at those systems and start implementing solutions. Breaking down ableism in the coffee-roasting sector can both expand our talent pool and facilitate safer conditions for all workers. Although cognitive/mental disabilities and issues of café accessi- bility shouldn't be ignored, this article specifi cally focuses on phys- ical disabilities in roasting and roasting culture. While some of the methods discussed cost more than others and won't be equally feasible for every roasting company, the key is doing what you can and under- standing that any amount of increased access helps bring new talent into your spaces and preserve tenured talent as well. WHAT IS ABLEISM? Before we can start discussing specifics of ableism in coffee roasting, it's important to understand its mechanisms in general. As stated earlier, the term ableism refers to discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities. Like all forms of discrimination, ableism manifests not only as personal prejudices or actions directed against people with disabilities, but also societal structures and systems that make it harder to exist as a person with disabilities, and pervasive unconscious attitudes or biases surrounding disabled people. Here's an example of how each of those different forms of ableism might look: • Explicit interpersonal ableism looks like a nondisabled person mocking a person with disabilities. • Structural/systemic ableism looks like people with disabilities being unable to access affordable, high-quality health care, jobs, and housing that meet their needs. • Unconscious bias around ableism looks like people associating disabilities with unrelated negative attributes, like calling a poorly plotted fi lm "lame." Especially in the case of coffee roasting, ableism primarily affects people with physical disabilities, but also contributes to negative views of and barriers for other people with perceived physical limitations, including women, short people, and people with injuries. WHY SHOULD ROASTING COMPANIES CARE? Breaking down ableism in the coffee-roasting sector can both broaden our talent base and facilitate safer conditions for all workers. Within the coffee-roasting fi eld, one major reason companies might want to prioritize the inclusion of people with physical disabilities or limita- tions is that those circumstances are not a static state. Some people are born with disabilities or limitations, but many are born without them and develop them over time. As humans work and age, many eventually develop what the American Disability Association (ADA) would characterize as a physical disability: "a physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities." Since many are used to viewing physical disabilities and limitations as a static state, they don't realize how important ergonomics and safety are for all types of workers until they develop chronic issues from working unsafely, and find themselves with a temporary or permanent disability or limitation. A common example of this in roasting is workers who develop back problems from lifting heavy coffee bags unsafely. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), back disorders are one of the leading causes of disability for people in their working years, and affl ict more than 600,000 employees each year, with a cost of about $50 billion annually. "I've known and worked with a lot of people who suffer from lower-back pain from lifting improperly or tackling too much when it comes to green-coffee bags," says Mandy Spirito, director of coffee at Halfwit Coffee Roasters in Chicago. "Production roasters and produc- tion workers often develop wrist issues from bagging or using triers. Lifting coffee bags is often pretty diffi cult for smaller folks and can cause a lot of shoulder strain. Repetitive motion is also an issue if table height isn't correct for production folks." Roasting as a career path has an exceptionally long learning curve, BENEFITS OF DISABILITY INCLUSION IN RETENTION If workers develop disabilities, it pays to accommodate them. Research from the U.S. Department of Labor found that disability accommodations can have very low costs and very high impacts. DIRECT BENEFITS: 90% retained a valued employee 73% increased an employee's productivity 61% eliminated costs of training a new employee 38% saved money on workers' compensation and insurance INDIRECT BENEFITS: 63% increased overall company morale 56% increased overall company productivity 46% increased workplace safety 27% increased profi tability IN HIRING Hiring workers with disabilities isn't an act of charity. In fact, it comes with many concrete benefi ts. According to a 2013 U.S. Chamber of Commerce report, corporations that hired qualifi ed candidates with disabilities found: • Low absenteeism rates • Long tenures • Increased group morale • Loyal, reliable, and hardworking employees 22 barista magazine

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