For Coffee Educators’ owner Claire Matheson and Dan Burford, a love of coffee has been a life changer.

Having started in the industry over 20 years ago, Matheson rose through the ranks from barista to trainer. While working in the UK she soon became skilled enough to even teach Italians, who come from a country renowned for making good coffee.

Matheson opened her first café and training facility, Co-Ed with fiancé Dan Burford in Wellington’s Lower Hutt in 2014.

Not long after opening she was approached by the head of Newlands College Deaf Unit to run a course for students. This course was a huge success, not only for the students.

“From that day on I decided to adapt our methods to make our environment more user friendly for those with differing abilities,” said Matheson.

Fast forward two years and the business has expanded to two cafes, Co-Ed and Little Café, and the Coffee Educators learning facility, with plans to open in Christchurch. The business now also employs 50 percent of hearing impaired staff. Matheson has been learning sign language and offers it to members of her staff, which they all love. However, she says the language barrier has never been a major problem.

“Although initially, I had no sign skills, we barely used an interpreter. Coffee was our language. Coffee is something where you don’t need to be judged. You can be the person you want to be. It doesn’t matter whether you have a disability or not, if you can make a great coffee that unites you with the customer.

“Our two cafes and training facility are inclusive work environments. We educated and communicate and make learning fun for staff and the customers.”

In the cafés are TVs with instructional videos on how to say ‘hello’ and place your order in sign language. These types of touches and all the hard work Claire and Dan have put in to make their businesses inclusive has seen Coffee Educators nominated as a finalist in the ACC Employer category at the 2016 Attitude Awards. The national awards celebrate the excellence and achievements of Kiwis living with disability and chronic health.

Coffee Educators will find out if they have won an Attitude Award at a black-tie gala on November 29 at Auckland’s ASB Showgrounds.

There are eight categories in the 2016 Attitude Awards, with some new awards this year: Youth Spirit, Making a Difference, Emerging Athlete, Sporting Spirit, Spirit of Attitude, Artistic Achievement, Entrepreneur and Employer Award. The overall winner of the Attitude ACC Supreme Award is selected from the category winners and a People’s Choice winner and Hall of Fame inductee are also announced at the awards.

Dan Buckingham, Chair of the Attitude Trust, says: “I take my hat off to the judges for managing to narrow down the record number of nominations we had to just 24 finalists, across the 8 categories. Now I’m looking forward to getting to know the finalists as we travel around the country filming with them and sharing their stories.

Thank you to our fantastic family of sponsors who have allowed us to once again shine a light on some great Kiwis living with disabilities doing some phenomenal things.”

Dan encourages everyone to visit in early November to see short films of the finalists and to vote for the person most deserving of the ‘People’s Choice Award’.

The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) returns as the principal sponsor of the 2016 Attitude Awards. Other sponsors supporting the awards are: Lion Foundation, Drake Medox, Barfoot & Thompson, Ministry of Health, KPMG, Westpac, Manawanui InCharge, Ricoh, HealthCare NZ, Air New Zealand and NZ on Air.

ACC Chief Executive Scott Pickering says ACC is proud to sponsor the Employer Award category as well as being principal sponsor of the Attitude Awards for the ninth year.

“The Attitude ACC Employer Award finalists demonstrate that people with disabilities can contribute as much, if not more, than anyone else to the workplace,” Mr Pickering said. “We all have a part to play in making our society a truly inclusive one, and it’s great to share the stories and experiences of the finalists. I hope that other employers will be inspired by what these businesses have done, and the rewards they have reaped which make their efforts so worthwhile.”

For tickets to the Attitude Awards gala evening on November 29 contact Terri Cavanagh at or phone 09 378 1565.