The Wild Oats Bakery & Café has been providing breads, cakes, cookies and pies to customers in Brunswick, Maine since 1991. Over the years, the bakery’s staff, menu and reputation have grown. In addition to baked goods, the bakery now offers hot entrees, sandwiches and soups, and its staff numbers over 20.
The Wild Oats Bakery & Café has significant experience employing workers with a disability. Owner Becky Shepard said that having employees with disabilities tends to bring people together and reinforces community. “Our employees give each other rides home and provide each other with social support,” she said. “People are reminded that they need to treat all people equally, and that everybody has a right to contribute and does contribute to our productivity.”
Management takes an active role in looking for accommodations. Most are fairly minor, such as including a picture of a tomato in instructions for an employee who can’t read, and enlarging the type of a recipe for a worker with a visual impairment.
Initially, Becky worked with Independence Association, a local agency that assists adults and children with disabilities. Independence Association had a client with mental retardation who was looking for work. Becky hired him and the agency provided support for both the employee and the bakery’s management.
Currently, Wild Oats Bakery & Café does not receive agency support for their employees with a disability. “A lot has changed in 16 years,” commented Becky. “We used to receive some financial assistance for training, skills testing and support. Currently, we work directly with individuals with a disability and it’s not clear if they receive any agency supports.”
Becky said that you “always be on your toes” regarding human resource issues. “Constant sensitivity training is a challenge for us as an employer but it helps all of our employees,” she said. “We have a very diverse crew and must always reassess to make sure the work environment is supportive for everyone.”
Becky has a few comments for other employers planning to hire people with a disability:
- “You have to be somebody that has a positive attitude and is flexible.”
- “The challenges will have a positive impact on your business and environment.”
- “Hiring people with disabilities is valuable to the workplace and to the larger community.”
The Wilds Oats Bakery and Café is located at the Tontine Mall, 149 Maine Street, Brunswick. For more information, visit http://www.wildoatsbakery.com.