People With an Intellectual Disability Given On-the-Job Training at Auckland Café

Like any other in the area, Auckland’s Te Tuhi Café serves up delicious scones, coffee, tea, and pastries, however, this local eatery is also serving up employment opportunities for seven people with an intellectual disability to train in hospitality.

The non-profit enterprise, believed to be the first of its kind in New Zealand, opened to the public in July and was an idea five years in the making for Hiraani Himona, the executive director at art gallery and community centre Te Tuhi.

Himona modelled the establishment after seeing the success of disability training cafés in the UK, where she had worked as South London Gallery’s deputy director. When she partnered with Rescare, which provides support services for people with an intellectual disability, along with the University of Auckland that the idea became a reality.

The long-term goal, according to Himona, was to make the café financially sustainable so it could help as many people as possible. While they expected it would “take some time” to reach that goal, Te Tuhi centre administrator Cherry Tawhai said there was already interest from others in the disability sector.

Dr Katrina Jane Phillips, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Auckland, and her students are part of the team in charge of designing the training programme for the employees at the café.

The programme teaches hospitality skills, such as handling money and preparing food, and work-related skills, like understanding different people's roles in a café. Trainees work through the modules of the programme at their own pace, in an order that reflects what they’re interested in.

She said the team wanted to create a manual that any hospitality business could use to train someone with an intellectual disability, even if they hadn’t done so before.