A new coffee shop in the heart of Burlington is serving up more than a good cup of Joe.
“We figured why don’t we build a place designed for hiring people with disabilities,” said Richard Vaughn, owner of Perky Planet.
Perky Planet aims to dismiss some of the misconceptions about people with intellectual disabilities by providing them with meaningful work and competitive wages.
“I’ve been mistreated at jobs,” said Kate Bovee. “The big question for me is always, ‘how am I going to be treated?’”
Kate Bovee hasn’t always felt welcome in the work place. She was born with Williams Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. After a few days of working at Perky Planet, things have been different.
“It’s like night and day, really,” Bovee said. “The people here know we’re all equal, we’re all human beings, and we should all be treated that way.”
To make the job more accessible, a few adjustments were made to the equipment and work flow. For instance, taxes are built into the cost of each item to make it easier for employees to count change.
Ian Macleod didn’t think he would find such a job after suffering a brain injury 10 years ago.
“It affects the eyes, ears and brain,” Macleod said. “My peripheral vision was taken from me, my hearing was taken from me.”
Perky Planet has given him the opportunity to keep working toward his dream.
“My dream actually has been to own a café.” Macleod said. “It’s a good match here, and the reason it’s a good match, I don’t think exists or could exist at another café.”
As their sign indicates, a “social revolution” has begun at Perky Planet, one cup at a time.
“If we can show the business community that it makes sense to hire people with disabilities,” Vaughn said. “That idea will catch on and open more doors and opportunities for folks.”
The coffee beans at Perky Planet are sourced primarily from female coffee farmers from countries including Peru, Rwanda, and Colombia.