Carina’s Bakery in Beaverton, Oregon, is gearing up for its grand opening later this month. Unlike most brand-new businesses, this unusual bakery is already up and running successfully, thanks to its founder Carina Comer and her staff members, all of whom are visually impaired.
Carina, who is legally blind, has always had a passion for baking. She wanted to open a business that achieved two goals: to showcase the flavors of treats from her Scandinavian heritage, and provided a safe accessible workplace for people with disabilities.
Carina and her employees run the bakery with the assistance of adaptive devices, like speaking cash registers and scales, along with two seeing-eye dogs called Sutter and Ribbon. There are several signs located around the shop that remind customers that all staff members are visually impaired, and that everyday processes may take a little longer than usual.
Employing workers who are visually impaired isn’t the only thing that makes Carina’s Bakery special. Every product baked onsite is free of animal products. Carina states that “it fits in well with what I am trying to do with this bakery because I want people to feel like they belong and are being treated right, and I should do the same with the animals and the baked goods.”
Lora Ward, one of Carina’s employees, affirms that “to maintain a lifestyle and to live, this is an awesome opportunity.”
It wasn’t easy to convince her community that this would work. Carina admits that many friends and family members did not believe she would be able to open the bakery she envisioned. Carina persisted, inspired by the creativity and ingenuity of her grandfather, who kept the family’s Swedish ancestry alive. Carina says she has long maintained his teachings of motivation, hard work, and inventiveness.
Carina’s Bakery opens at a time when people with disabilities are finally able to live more integrated lives in a society that has not always been easy to adapt to. While people with disabilities will undoubtedly face daily challenges that the average person might never encounter in a lifetime, a little kindness and flexibility – as modelled in Carina’s Bakery – goes a long way toward giving them the freedom to live the life they choose.