Career Development and Transition for
2019, Vol. 42(2) 128â€“134
Â© Hammill Institute on Disabilities 2018
Article reuse guidelines:
Transition in Practice
Julio, the student manager of The CafÃ©, arrives at school
and immediately goes to his first class. He retrieves his
timecard, clocks in, glances at his visual schedule that
shows his shift assignment, then retrieves the keys to open
The CafÃ©. Having dressed in his work uniform, put on his
name badge, and washed his hands, Julio enters The CafÃ©
to begin work. While supervising the baristas as they prepare their work stations, Julio independently uses an iPad
to log into The CafÃ© email for customer orders. Julio selects
the first order and reviews its details.
To successfully respond to the challenges associated with
transitioning a student with an intellectual disability (ID) into
employment, secondary schools must devise and implement
an effective school-to-work curriculum that provides vocational skill instruction (Carter, Trainor, Cakiroglu, Swedeen,
& Owens, 2010) and that seeks to engage the employment
opportunities available within the local community (Brooke,
Revell, & Wehman, 2009). Hart, Barnett, and Crippen (2014)
suggest that an appropriate transition curriculum for students
with ID should incorporate real-world, community-based
vocational training experiences. However, in smaller communities, teachers may face a dearth of community-based
vocational training placements, and in many rural areas
accessibility is complicated by insufficient or nonexistent
public transportation (Collet-Klingenberg & Kolb, 2011).
One way for special educators to supplement communitybased vocational training is to develop school-based enterprises that teach transferable vocational skills relevant to the
local community. Research suggests that students with ID
who participate in a cooperative program (i.e., one that
stresses academics and vocational skills) have a greater
chance of becoming securely employed after high school
(Shandra & Hogan, 2008). Furthermore, Ross suggests (as
cited in Carter et al., 2010) a logistical benefit of establishing
a school-based enterprise is eliminating the need to transport
students within the community, therefore, leaving more time
for school-based vocational and academic instruction.
In this article, implementing The CafÃ©, an online, schoolbased microenterprise at a rural high school, is described.
This innovative approach to build independent vocational
skills for students with ID uses customized functional digital literacy and an integrated visual supports system to
increase student autonomy.
Designing an Online, School-Based
With both the desire to target functional digital literacy
skills and to implement an online business model, Mr. Wood
developed The CafÃ©â€™s website using the school districtâ€™s
existing WordPress.org account as an initial contact
between The CafÃ©â€™s customers and the students with ID
operating The CafÃ©. Mr. Wood included five easily navigable pages: a Home page, a Comments/Suggestions page, a
Menu page, an Order page, and a Special Offers page for
use by school staff and teachers (see Table 1). Mr. Wood
769611 CDEXXX10.1177/2165143418769611Career Development and Transition for Exceptional IndividualsFields and Demchak
University of Nevada, Reno, USA
C. J. Fields, University of Nevada, Reno, Mail Stop 299, Reno, NV 89557,
Email: [email protected]
Integrated Visual Supports in a SchoolBased Microenterprise for Students With
C. J. Fields, MEd1
and MaryAnn Demchak, PhD1
School-based microenterprises and vocational training opportunities represent an effective approach to developing
transferable vocational skills in students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The authors describe the
implementation of an online, school-based microenterprise at a rural high school that emphasizes functional digital literacy
and uses an integrated system of visual supports to increase the autonomy of students with intellectual and developmental
disabilities in a workplace setting.
functional digital literacy, intellectual disability, transition, school to work, microenterprise, visual supports, vocational skills
Fields and Demchak 129
embedded electronic forms within the website that are
linked to a school district email account set up to receive
electronic submissions and to be the primary interface by
the students to view and receive orders.
Online enterprises remain a largely unexplored area with
regard to developing vocational opportunities for students
with ID. In a 21st century economy where, increasingly,
companies are using online platforms to do business, it is
important for teachers to consider ways in which they can
develop capacities that make this vocational sector available to their students. Given the changing economy, it is
essential to ensure that students with ID receive instruction
in functional digital literacy skills such as using email,
social media, and cloud-based services (Cihak, Wright,
McMahon, Smith, & Kraiss, 2015). While developing an
Internet-based business may seem intimidating, teachers
can access various ease-of-use, web-based tools (e.g.,
Weebly.com, Wix.com) for this purpose. Acquiring independence in functional digital literacy skills can potentially
lead to postschool employment opportunities for students
with ID (Cihak et al., 2015).
The CafÃ©â€™s website allows students to correspond with
customers to clarify orders and view submitted comments
or suggestions. Electronic correspondence is an important,
embedded vocational skill that allows for autonomous operation of The CafÃ© via practical, transferable functional digital literacy skills. The CafÃ©â€™s online platform is similar to
many contemporary retail and food service businesses (e.g.,
Pizza Hut, Staples) that offer websites for customer use.
The CafÃ©â€™s website serves as the nexus of a larger integrated
visual system of supports designed to reduce studentsâ€™
prompt dependency and to increase self-determination and
self-management in a vocational setting.
Integrated Visual Supports System
Recognizing that modern jobs require diverse interpersonal
and self-management skills, Mr. Wood designed an integrated visual support system to assist his students with ID
in running all aspects of The CafÃ© (see Table 2). Mr. Woods
used Adobe PhotoshopÂ® and the Microsoft Office SuiteÂ® to
create visuals that support task initiation, task completion,
Visual activity schedules represent one method of assisting students with ID with vocational tasks, by reducing
their need for adult supervision. Carson, Gast, and Ayres
(2008) used a visual activity schedule displayed in a small
photo album to assist students with disabilities in completing vocational tasks at Walmart stores. The researchers
found that the students completed tasks more efficiently and
independently when using the visual activity schedules. A
particularly relevant finding was that the managers of the
Walmart stores found the visual activity schedules to be
appropriate for the workplace, reporting that they would be
an â€œeasy strategy to implementâ€ for employees (Carson
et al., 2008, p. 277). This positive view by the managers
provides real-world support for use of visual supports in the
workplace and suggests that visual supports represent a
viable tool for teaching transferable vocational skills.
Students with ID can be taught to run all aspects of a
microenterprise through gesture, verbal, and model prompting using a system of least prompts, with an emphasis on
first prompting students to use visual supports to complete
tasks on their own. As students become more proficient at
the various business operations and use the integrated visual
system of supports independently, teacher instruction
should be systematically faded and the transfer of control of
The CafÃ© to the student workers initiated. Student workers
in The CafÃ© are monitored by the teacher to ensure continued proficiency and to monitor growth; however, student
workers should ultimately assume all responsibility for
operating The CafÃ©.
Heather enters The CafÃ© for her barista work shift. She
checks the posted Job Duty Schedule for her work station
assigned by the shift manager. Heather notes that she is
working as the server and helps her coworker make coffee
and start the tea kettle. Once Heatherâ€™s station is ready, she
goes to Julio for instruction on what to do next and is
directed to prepare standing orders. She consults the
Standing Order Board to determine what to make first.
Table 1. The CafÃ© Webpage Descriptions.
Webpage title Webpage function(s)
Home page The Home page describes The CafÃ© including a description of The CafÃ©â€™s clientele, the purpose
of the business, and use of the profits.
Comments/Suggestions page The Comments/Suggestions page is a blank electronic form that customers complete when
providing feedback or suggesting new items to add to The CafÃ© menu.
Menu page The Menu page lists all regularly served CafÃ© items and the price of each item.
Order page The Order page contains an electronic form that customers complete and submit to place an
Special Offers page The Special Offers page contains an electronic form to order prepaid drink and snack cards
and describes the special perks of buying each card.
130 Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals 42(2)
Task Initiation Supports
Visual supports aimed at task initiation trigger the studentsâ€™
starting activities needed for The CafÃ© to run productively
and efficiently. Visual supports identify shift assignments
(first shift or second shift) and prompt initiating relevant
tasks. Student baristas are taught to identify their cafÃ© duties
by reviewing cafÃ© visuals, reducing the need for dependency on teacher prompting for initiating assigned tasks.
Tasks can be divided into two categories, job and clean-up
duties (see Figure 1). Job duties rotate and can include providing direct customer service at The CafÃ©â€™s service counter, preparing drink orders and making deliveries in the
school, operating the cash register, preparing bagel orders,
and completing a weekly inventory. Clean-up duties also
rotate and can include cleaning coffee makers, emptying the
kettle, wiping surfaces, cleaning the bagel station, and mopping. The use of task initiation visual supports can result in
eliminating teacher prompts needed for students to start
Julio asks Alice to complete Mr. Tyâ€™s food and drink
order, placed through the website. Alice retrieves a clipboard holding a Visual Order Taker and Order Tabulation
Sheet and goes to the Staff Id Board where she locates Mr.
Tyâ€™s Id Label. Alice affixes Mr. Tyâ€™s Staff Id Label to the
order taker and uses an erasable marker to record Mr. Tyâ€™s
order as Julio reads it to her. Alice asks Mark, who is
assigned to the bagel station, to make Mr. Tyâ€™s food while
she makes his coffee. Seeing that Mark is struggling with
making the bagel, Julio points to the posted Visual Activity
Schedule for making bagels and prompts his coworker to
use it for assistance.
Task Completion Supports
To address memory-associated difficulties of students with
ID, a customized, sequential series of interactive visual supports can be created that allows the students to quickly
record orders and provides a visual reminder of to whom and
where the order is to be delivered (see Figure 2). The CafÃ©â€™s
Table 2. List of Supports and Specific Functions.
Integrated visual support system
Task initiation supports Function
Visual Daily Schedule (Classroom) Initiate student work during specified shift
Timecards and Timeclock Initiate work/school day
Email Orders on iPad Initiate web-based order completion and delivery
Standing Order Board Initiate standing order completion and delivery
Job Duty Schedule Initiate specified cafÃ© station work
Clean-Up Duty Schedule Initiate specified clean-up duty
Friday Laundry Duty Initiate weekly washing and drying of uniforms
Task completion supports Function
Visual Work Task Analyses Support completion of chained cafÃ© tasks
Staff Identification (Id) Board Support order completion and delivery by identifying staff
(name and picture) and staff room number
Visual Order Taker Support order completion and delivery
Visual Order Tabulation Sheet Support totaling up of multi-item orders
Visual Inventory Checklist Support weekly review of cafÃ© inventory
Color Coded Buttons (Cash Register) Support cash register operation
Shirt Folder With Visuals Support correct uniform folding technique
Pre-Programmed Profit/Loss Spreadsheet Assist in financial management of the cafÃ©
Visual reminders Function
Customer Service Scripts Remind students of appropriate customer interaction
Pre-Paid Cards and Pre-Paid Card Tracker Remind students of customer purchase history
Employee of the Week Display Remind students of positive work incentive
Safe Work Day Count Display Remind students of safe work incentive
Health and Safety Rules Remind students of health and safety rules
Menus and Pre-Paid Cards (With Pricing) Remind students of available cafÃ© items and prices
Note. Table 2 lists all visual supports within The CafÃ©â€™s system of supports to demonstrate scope. Only a selection of visuals are discussed and displayed
within this article.
Fields and Demchak 131
supports use two interactive forms: (a) a Visual Order Taker
and (b) a Visual Tabulation Sheet. Each form is laminated
and can be quickly and easily completed using an erasable
marker, and Staff Id Labels are easily transferred to these
forms using Velcroâ„¢. Students who learn to use these supports no longer require follow-up instruction from their shift
manager and can take and complete orders independently.
In addition to the order fulfillment visual supports, visual
activity schedules of individual cafÃ© tasks provide step-bystep instructions and can be used to aid student learning and
remembering of steps associated with a chained skill (e.g.,
making a pot of coffee; see Figure 3). These visual activity
schedules are posted near where the work task is completed
and are made using color photographs paired with written
instructions to assist students completing the tasks. When
students cannot complete a chained skill, they are prompted
by special education staff or their coworkers to attend to the
visual depicting the activity. Implementing task completion
visual supports allows student workers in The CafÃ© to demonstrate increased independence in completing complex
tasks. Students often self-fade the use of these visual systems due to their work competencies exceeding the need for
Before exiting The CafÃ© to deliver an order, Delores
briefly practices by reading the Customer Service Script on
The CafÃ©â€™s wall. Delores enters Ms. Loâ€™s classroom to
deliver coffee, saying â€œGood Morning, hereâ€™s your order
from The CafÃ©.â€ Ms. Lo replies, â€œThank you!â€ Delores
responds, â€œYouâ€™re welcome, may I please punch your coffee
card?â€ Delores uses a one-hole punch to punch Ms. Loâ€™s
prepaid card. On returning to The CafÃ©, Delores uses an
erasable marker to record Ms. Loâ€™s purchase on the PrePaid Card Tracker next to Ms. Loâ€™s affixed Staff Id Label.
Delores also tracks Ms. Loâ€™s purchase on the Standing
Visual supports within this category can emphasize work
incentives, safety and work standards, cafÃ© pricing information, and customer purchase history. Students can view these
supports to help them recall workplace expectations and to
assist them in providing quality service to customers. Prepaid
snack and/or prepaid coffee cards, good for discounted food
and drink purchases (see Figure 2), can be punched by the
barista on completing each delivery. When baristas make
deliveries to customers who have prepaid cards, they can
interact with the customer using a practiced dialogue that
emphasizes brevity and courteous customer interaction. This
dialogue can be posted on the wall of The CafÃ© in the form of
a color-coded Customer Service Script and used to practice
the customer service dialogue prior to customer interaction
(see Figure 4). Visually scripting communicative exchanges
has been shown to be an effective approach to developing the
communication skills of students across disability categories
to address a variety of verbal communication deficits (Ganz,
2007). Variations of the Customer Service Script should be
posted throughout The CafÃ© to support multiple scenarios,
including a script for interacting with customers who place
orders at the service counter.
Figure 1. Task initiation visual support for work station assignments.
132 Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals 42(2)
Figure 2. Visual support integration diagram of order recording and purchase history.
Fields and Demchak 133
On returning from making a delivery, cafÃ© baristas are also
required to track the purchase history of customers who have
prepaid cards. This is done using the cafÃ©â€™s Prepaid Card
Tracker (see Figure 2). This visual support requires the students to use an erasable marker to track deliveries completed,
and serves as a visual reminder of customersâ€™ remaining prepaid orders. When customers are close to filling their prepaid
cards, the cafÃ© baristas recognize the need to sell the customer
another card, generating more capital for the business.
To address students spilling beverages, carelessness with
equipment and supplies, and unsanitary work practices, a
list of workplace Health and Safety Rules is developed and
taught to the students. These rules are posted within The
CafÃ© as a constant reminder of daily work performance
expectations. Furthermore, workplace incentives are
designed to motivate students toward safe, sanitary, and
productive work practices. These earned incentives are
designed specifically to encourage positive workplace
behaviors. CafÃ© workers are incentivized for individual
work performance and for the work performance of the
entire cafÃ© staff.
Students who work safely, efficiently, and correctly, and
show consistent effort and initiative are eligible for the
Employee of the Week award. Employees of the Week have
their photo posted on the Employee of the Week Display and
receive an incentive item from the programâ€™s student store.
The Employee of the Week Display is a reminder that working responsibly and diligently carries with it the potential
for recognition and reward.
A Safe Work Day Count Display is posted within the cafÃ©
and is used to track the number of days The CafÃ© completes
both work shifts without a lost time accident. CafÃ© managers update this count at the end of second shift each school
day. Sixty days without a lost time accident results in a
pizza lunch for all cafÃ© staff. The Safe Work Day Count
Display provides a reminder that working safely carries
with it the potential for recognition and reward. These
embedded initiatives replicate incentive initiatives often
found in community-based workplaces and facilitate student understanding of such programs and their benefits. The
development of these safety initiatives is also essential to
passing inspection by the local health department.
Since the development and implementation of The CafÃ© 2
years ago, all operations of the microenterprise were successfully turned over to the students. Daily, student workers learn
and practice a multitude of transferable vocational skills and
practical, functional digital literacy skills. The autonomy with
which the student workers run The CafÃ© provides support for
students with ID to operate successfully a microenterprise/
sole-proprietorship when provided with needed visuals.
Furthermore, The CafÃ© establishes that integrating a variety of
visual supports, digital or printed, into a customized system of
supports, can assist students with ID completing a variety of
complex, interconnected vocational tasks. While the use of
this visual system of supports is described for a food service
job, designing and implementing a comprehensive integrated
visual system in other school-based microenterprises and in
community-based workplaces may offer expansive opportunity for individuals with ID. It may also represent a cost-effective approach to supported employment, reducing the need for
Figure 3. Task completion visual support for making regular
Figure 4. Customer service script for use with customers
owning a prepaid coffee card.
134 Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals 42(2)
direct instruction and prompting from job coaches. Students
with ID who are equipped with a broad set of transferable job
skills developed within The CafÃ© may successfully transition
to competitive work.
The authors would like to acknowledge Jamie Gustafson who provided the initial inspiration for this work.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect
to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) received no financial support for the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Brooke, V. A., Revell, G., & Wehman, P. (2009). Quality indicators for competitive employment outcomes: What special education teachers need to know in transition planning.
Teaching Exceptional Children, 41(3), 58â€“66.
Carson, K. D., Gast, D. L., & Ayres, K. M. (2008). Effects of a
photo activity schedule book on independent task changes by
students with intellectual disabilities in community and school
job sites. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 23,
Carter, E. W., Trainor, A. A., Cakiroglu, O., Swedeen, B., &
Owens, L. A. (2010). Availability of and access to career
development activities for transition-age youth with disabilities. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 33,
Cihak, D. F., Wright, R., McMahon, D., Smith, C. C., & Kraiss,
K. (2015). Incorporating functional digital literacy skills as
part of the curriculum for high school students with intellectual disability. Education and Training in Autism and
Developmental Disabilities, 50, 155â€“171.
Collet-Klingenberg, L. L., & Kolb, S. M. (2011). Secondary and
transition programming for 18-21 year old students in rural
Wisconsin. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 30(2), 19â€“27.
Ganz, J. B. (2007). Using visual script interventions to address
communication skills. Teaching Exceptional Children, 40(2),
Hart Barnett, J. E., & Crippen, R. (2014). Eight steps to schoolbased employment training for adolescents with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability. Physical Disabilities:
Education and Related Services, 33(2), 1â€“15.
Shandra, C. L., & Hogan, D. P. (2008). School-to-work program
participation and the post-high school employment of young
adults with disabilities. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation,
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