TORONTO – The Cultural Café is tucked away in a Markham community centre and is known for its good coffee. That makes founder Danny Leung proud.
The staff behind the counter are not only good at their jobs, they are all visually impaired.
“We want to demonstrate to the community that we are still able to do something,” said Leung.
Leung has found that some people pity those who are blind and seem to think they should stay at home and have someone else take care of them.
So he launched the café not just to help staff develop skills and confidence, but to show off their skills and confidence to customers.
“They see us. They see blind people doing things here,” said Leung.
One of his employees, Windy Ho, has been losing her vision gradually. She feels sharing her story with customers helps them understand what it is like to be visually impaired.
“Even with the vision I have now, even if it is limited, I still make great food,” said Ho.
Customer Peter Chu is a regular at the café and when he first went there, he wasn’t sure what to expect, but seeing how well it was being run, made him realize that there are no limits.
“Everybody deserves an opportunity,” said Chu.
Leung also hopes the café helps educate other business owners about the importance of accepting guide dogs.
Another entrepreneur changing attitudes and helping people who are visually impaired is Chris Chamberlin. His company, Frontier Computing, converts all kinds of publications and documents, including menus, into braille.
He said a growing number of companies are seeing the value in making what they do more accessible to everyone. He added that while it is just one of many things they can do, it is an important one.
“It is certainly welcome, for us to live independently, and to to make our own choices based on access to information,” said Chamberlin.
Leung pointed out his customers walk away with more than a good coffee, and those going through their own struggles are inspired.
“They come and see us and say they say wow if you can do this there is hope for me.”