Life

Mother-Daughter Coffee Van Fights the Stigma of Disability

Every morning, Sonya Lovell and her daughter Bronwyn Shelverton race around the small town of Huonville on the island of Tasmania in their coffee van. But providing people with their morning up is the least of what Que Sera Sera Coffee has accomplished in its three months of business.

Bronwyn has down syndrome, which can make it difficult to hold a full-time job. But with a little help from her mom, she’s proving otherwise.

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Bronwyn previously worked at a cafe and bar but had to stop because her support worker left. As a person with a disability, she was also subject to a strict minimum wage. Fortunately, that isn’t a problem with the mother-daughter mobile coffee business.

At Que Sera Sera Coffee, Bronwyn takes the orders and Sonya makes the coffee. The pair gets along famously and Bronwyn can do her job without a support worker.

“She does need support in some areas of working,” says Sonya. “With me being in the van, I’m acting as her support worker, I guess. But some days she’s actually working as my support worker as well.”

Taking the orders of customers every day has also helped Bronwyn’s people skills, with some noticing a difference from when the mother-daughter coffee business started a few months ago.

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“Since they’ve been coming I’ve noticed the difference with Bron, she’s not as reserved now and she’s more open, she jumps out of the car and she’s straight in, and says good morning,” says regular customer Sue Eaves. “You always see this beautiful smile on her face, so that’s what you like to see — someone happy.”

Unfortunately, only half of the people with disabilities in Australia work. But Bronwyn has helped to show people with disabilities can find work and be an important part of a business despite the obstacles they face. She and Sonya are even put some of their profits into a fund to help others with disabilities start a business.

“I thought there’s got to be a better way. So hopefully, in five or 10 years that this will be Bron’s future,” says Sonya. “It actually is breaking down stereotypes, to not look at someone whether they have Down syndrome or any disability and think they’re not going to be able to do that job. They can.”