Barista Magazine

DEC 2017-JAN 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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Page 22 of 107

and many roasters make costly mistakes while they're new to the job. Experienced roasters are invaluable resources with long codices of knowledge and keen intuition, often around handling machines as well as beans. Since training new roasters is so time-consuming and costly, roaster retention is key to success and profi t—but many have come to view the job as a stepping stone or a position that's not sus- tainable long-term simply because roasting is hard on the bodies of even the most physically capable work- ers. Companies lose money when they have to replace roasters, and often the reason they have to replace those roasters is that they sustain injuries or develop chronic issues that prevent them from roasting. Aside from the fact that workers' physical well-be- ing is important and should be seen as a priority in itself, the fi scal loss caused by roasters developing chronic issues that stop them from working could be prevented by breaking down the culture of ableism in roasting and employing systems that prioritize all workers' physical health and safety. Once roasting companies move away from the traditional attitude that roasting should hurt, they can start thinking about how to help workers use their bodies safely and sustainably. Often workers with attributes traditionally viewed as limitations have the best insight into which parts of a roasting setup put others' bodies in jeopardy; they also often come with experience in how to inex- pensively adapt spaces for safer work. Employing people of various sizes and ability levels can reveal the many contributing factors that lead to unsafe conditions for all workers and facilitate infrastruc- ture where everyone can work safely and add value to their company. Ableism in roasting manifests both as actual barriers to access to the roasting/production sector for people with physical disabilities and limitations, as well as cultural attitudes around physical ability in that sector (attitudes that, ironically, often lead to disability). HOW TO BREAK DOWN ABLEISM IN ROASTING Now that we've seen how ableism in coffee roasting harms workers and companies and explored how it operates (see sidebar), let's talk about how to fi x it. There are infi nite tiny steps to bringing in more physically diverse staff and safeguarding workers against physical harm, but below are some good starting points. ACCESSIBILITY STRATEGIES In roasting culture: • Encourage roasting/production workers to ask for help and work as a team around physical tasks; lead by example by doing this yourself. • Create rules barring dangerous or physically irresponsible movement, then enforce them. LOGISTICAL BARRIERS FOR WORKERS WITH PHYSICAL DISABILITIES OR LIMITATIONS In roastery hiring practices: • Requiring that candidates be able to regularly lift 50–175 pounds repeatedly above their heads • Requiring that candidates have prior experience (meaning they had to suc- cessfully pass through this fi lter before) • Conscious or unconscious bias against hiring shorter people and women • Conscious or unconscious bias against people with visibly apparent physical disabilities Mandy Spirito of Halfwit Coffee Roasters in Chicago has felt the impact of these attitudes. "I've certainly faced barriers to being hired as a roaster, and I think most people who are perceived as women can relate," Mandy says. "As a 5-foot-2-inch nonbinary femme, I was constantly getting told I wasn't strong enough, despite the fact that I can lift more than quite a few of my male friends. I can imagine that barrier is even more diffi cult for disabled and differently abled folks." In roasting spaces: • Requiring all coffee to be moved manually from place to place rather than employing technologies that move coffee throughout various parts of the roasting/production process (e.g., casters, forklifts, pallet jacks, conveyer systems) • Outfi tting spaces with very high counters and surfaces • Not making spaces ADA-compliant with measures like wheelchair ramps and accessible bathrooms Brian Gomez, owner of the Roasted Bean in Southern California, explains that these barriers are hard to see from the outside, and that tiny details can have a huge impact for people in wheelchairs. His space is designed around his needs as a wheelchair user, but these details were not expensive and usually aren't even noticeable to ambulatory people. "On the side of the control panel and the trier, I have 55 inches of radius where my wheelchair can move without hitting anything. That gives me the ability to adjust temperatures, view the coffee, and drop the roasts," Brian says. He also uses a pulley system to load coffee into the hopper and plans to get a pneumatic conveyer on his next machine. These details make a world of difference, and bringing in people with different body types, including people with physical disabilities, to act as consultants when building out or updating a space, is a helpful step that Brain recommends. CULTURAL BARRIERS FOR WORKERS WITH PHYSICAL DISABILITIES OR LIMITATIONS In roastery hiring practices: • Expecting the "right candidate" to be male, large, and apparently able-bodied • Assuming that the "right candidate" will fi t perfectly into the space and role as-is, with no modifi cation for the individual In roasting spaces: • Feeling that if you can physically lift something heavy, you should, even if there are safer ways to move that thing • Feeling averse to asking for help, especially with physical tasks • Feeling frustrated when coworkers are dealing with injuries and can't lift things • Feeling that roasting is supposed to hurt, and that roasters are supposed to be sore at the end of the day • Feeling that if roasters get hurt, it must be because of something they did wrong 23

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