Community News

Tech helps residents with learning difficulties thrive at work

A kitchen assistant with learning difficulties is using a tailor-made video to help him feed customers at a theatre cafe.

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

The outside of the Almeida Theatre building
Photo: Andreas Praefcke Wiki Commons

A kitchen assistant with learning difficulties is using a tailor-made video to help him feed customers at a theatre cafe.

Jemaine Williams started working at the Almeida Theatre last year, with the help of Islington Supported Employment Team (iSET).

The team works with 30 people a year to support them in finding a job and thriving at work.

Williams is a keen cook who likes to make brownies, so when a role at the Almeida came up, iSET’s Sheila Hart contacted the theatre. She helped the staff in devising a more accessible interview for him, and later in adapting the job to him.

The theatre’s bar manager Hannah Woolhouse recalled: “We had a task-based interview and Jemaine put together a dahl dish after following an example.

“He gave it an extra squeeze of lime on top, so I knew he had taste.”

The theatre talked about how they could use his skills and he now works there two days a week.

Hart said the part-time role is perfect for Williams.

“It was important for Jemaine to carry on his social activities,” she explained.

The 26-year-old plays football at Arsenal’s community hub and goes to the Hayward Adventure Playground in Upper Holloway.

Time spent playing sports is important to him.

Williams has lots of work experience under his belt, including with Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Foundation, which helps people get the training they need.

At the Almeida, he prepares all the sandwiches before the matinee, and collects loaves from the bakery on his way to the theatre.

He must ensure that each baguette is cut to the same size and asked for help to do this.

The council recruited AutonoMe, a company that uses mobile technology to help people with learning difficulties and neurodiversity to get jobs, to make a training video for him.

Woolhouse was filmed cutting up a loaf in the Almeida’s kitchen and the team also put markers on the cutting board to help.

“Everyone uses the cutting line now,” said Woolhouse.

Williams can refer to the video at any time if he needs a reminder. He even has a QR code with a link to the film stored with the sandwich bags.

Charlotte Judd from AutonoMe said: “He was one of our first learners to use the videos. He was finding it difficult to chop the baguettes and we made films in the café space Jemaine uses. There are videos showing how to make ham, cheese, and vegan baguettes.”

Williams said: “I use a line on the chopping board to help me cut the baguettes. I cut them into six.”

He added: “I like making the avocado vegan baguette.”

Other films produced by AutonoMe include how to ask for help at work and managing a payslip. Some are made especially for individuals, and others are more general, such as help with tying shoelaces.

Woolhouse said: “The video is good as it helps to break down the elements of a task and it was a really good reminder for me. It just made a lot of sense.

“When Jemaine is at work we are there together as a team and there is a lot of supervision and guidance there in person. But there can be a lot of time to forget what you are doing between shifts and its useful to have a tool as a refresher. It means he can be a bit more self-reliant.”

Williams’ role has now expanded, and he helps set out trays of canapes for events when the theatre needs an extra pair of hands.

He sometimes comes in at short notice for shifts, and serves actors during their rehearsal periods.

“Jemaine has been here a year and a half. He’s a big part of the team,” said Woolhouse.

The theatre hopes to train him to make coffees too, so another video might be on the menu.

Williams said earning his own money feels great.

“I like to spend money on clothes and cakes,” he said.

He has also taken to the stage in a three-night show about the history of his beloved Arsenal.

“I was a little bit nervous, but it was fun being backstage,” he recalled.

AdBlocker Message

Our website is made possible by displaying online advertisements to our visitors. Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker.

About EC1 Echo

EC1 Echo is your free local independent community news website. We publish stories to the web across the week and offer a platform for local people to highlight what matters to them. EC1 Echo is a not-for-profit project in partnership with the Peel Institute. Please consider becoming a subscriber supporter from £3.00 per month.
We need your help

Submit your listing here