Neighboring

Creating a Place for People to Belong: Ada’s Cafe’

adas- cafe

Editor’s Note: This is a wonderful, insightful post from our friends at Kindness.org who graciously let us repost their original content.  Enjoy.

When you stop by Ada’s Cafe in San Francisco or Palo Alto, you are presented with a wonderful selection of fresh sandwiches, soups, beverages, and even vegan and gluten-free pastries. Their cafes are warm and welcoming, and a model for inclusivity and kindness in the workplace.

As a non-profit organization, Ada’s Cafe and Catering is dedicated to conducting research and providing employment for people with disabilities. Founder Kathleen Foley-Hughes was inspired to start Ada’s when she saw her son Charlie’s lack of opportunities in special needs programs to participate in the larger community.

Related: “Little Free Libraries: Kindness and Community Spirit”

When we heard about this remarkable place from Shruti Verma, the Lead Researcher at Ada’s, we knew we wanted to collaborate. Through our Citizen Scientist program, we worked with Shruti to offer employees the opportunity to be Citizen Scientists by sharing their experiences through interviews and surveys. Together, we began to explore how kindness has an impact for people with disabilities in this unique environment.

“I really liked sitting together and talking about kindness and how it feels like to be at work.”
—Charlie

Kindness is a key part of the Ada’s experience.
We were excited to learn that working at Ada’s allowed employees to feel happy, valued, and connected to their community. People shared that being an Ada’s employee gave them a sense of pride about their abilities and responsibilities. Since working with Ada’s, employees shared that their general quality of life has improved.

The workplace culture that makes this possible starts with leadership that consciously sets a culture of kindness at every step, from training to day-to-day tasks. This was starkly different than the experiences our Citizen Scientist employees talked about in previous workplaces, where they were isolated, given improper training, and were fired for reasons connected to their disability.

“Kindness at work shows itself at Ada’s when my co-workers care if I am learning and if I am happy at work.” — Anna

Kindness at Ada’s is not only experienced between employees and management. Kindness spreads throughout the cafe, and many customers and employees build strong connections. Our Citizen Scientists observed many kind acts both received and given, between colleagues and customers alike.

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Together we can build kinder, more welcoming workplaces
From a management and human resources perspective, creating a welcoming environment for people with disabilities includes providing managers and project leads with information about how to communicate, train, inspire and lead their employees who have disabilities. Having at least one person in an HR department who is specifically appointed to focus on the well-being of employees with disabilities is also important.

“I like to ask everyone how they are doing and I like it when they ask me too.”
— Philip

Kathleen Foley-Hughes strongly believes, “We can all learn from one another.” Workplaces can practice inclusivity by providing sensitivity training for employees without disabilities, and including everyone in regular activities and retreats to build teamwork and trust. Viewing training as an ongoing process—with room for questions, support when needed, and an attention to what’s working and what isn’t—is a smart practice that honors each of our unique skills and contributions.

At the heart of the Ada’s model is the idea that everyone can feel empowered by learning and mastering skills at work. We’re grateful for the excellent research of Ada’s Citizen Scientist employees, and for their inspiring ideas on how to create kinder, happier workplaces where everyone belongs.

-The NwP Team

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