A new food truck option can be seen around Tampa! Artistas Cafe’s new coffee shop on wheels, the Bean Mobile, is already making scheduled pit stops around the city. While the coffee, smoothies and healthy options are great for passers-by, the most wonderful thing about the Bean Mobile is the fact that it solely employs individuals with autism.
Founded by Vicky Westra, head of nonprofit Autism Shifts, Artistas Cafe serves as a testament to the power of individuals with autism to be fabulous employees and hopes to change the stigma surrounding autism in many sectors. “When people see the team of baristas working efficiently, having an expertise, and interacting with customers, they will realize that someone with autism can do anything,” says Westra.
Autism is never the same from person to person. Some autistic individuals are very highly functioning, while others may struggle with basic tasks. According to Westra, however, all have the potential to excel in employment. They simply require individualized attention, whether that includes a visual guide to job training or a controlled atmosphere to work in.
It is estimated that up to 90% of autistic adults are unemployed, although that number is not tracked efficiently at the national level. The mission of Artistas Cafe is to lower that statistic and help autistic individuals reach their full potential. Westra hopes to open other businesses that actively hire autistic individuals as employees. “I tell the coffee team that they are the shifters of autism,” Westra says. “They are shifting the perspective of what someone with autism is capable of.”