College Burger Supports Student’s Vision

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High school senior Jake Ergler works at a coffee shop and dreams of becoming a chef of his own restaurant some day.

He’s also a visually impaired student at Washington State School of the Blind.

Ergler job-shadowed at the College Burger food cart on Jan. 16 to help fulfill his graduation requirements and to experience a real job.

College Burger Manager Liz Batchelor (left) trained Washington State School of the Blind student Jake Ergler (right) at the food court on Jan. 16. Having grown up around the blind, Liz said she had few challenges training Ergler. (Kailan Manandic / The Independent)

College Burger manager Liz Batchelor showed Ergler how the business is run. Ergler practiced taking orders and using an older cash register. The register in his coffee shop uses Wi-Fi and an iPad, Ergler said.

Ergler works three nights a week at The Lion’s Den coffee shop at the WSSB as part of the “Go Out and Live Successfully” class that each senior must complete.

“Currently we’re working on job-shadowing,” Ergler said. “We’re going out and practicing interviews, interviewing skills, how to look for jobs.”

With the right tools–like talking, thermometers and scales–blind people can easily cook, said Heidi Batchelor, co-owner of College Burger and Chewy’s Really Big Burritos.

Tactile tools, stickers and a “certain amount of bumps and textures” help with cooking, said Ergler. Braille stickers can be used to label measuring cups, jars and containers. “Every student has their own ways of distinguishing what they’re using,” he said.

“It’s amazing the amount of sight you can have with your fingers,” Liz said.

In The Lion’s Den coffee shop, Ergler and the other workers use ping pong balls to measure the amount of liquid in a cup. “You put the ping pong ball in and you pour the liquid into the cup, and when the ping pong ball rises to the top, it’s full. That way, you’re not sticking your fingers into the liquid,” Ergler said.

Teaching a blind person how to cook means having to explain the surroundings in detail, like telling him, “two steps to your left is a trash can and a freezer,” Liz said. “I’m so used to it that I don’t even think about it.”

Liz was raised by two blind aunts. The aunts lived together for 45 years, raising a family that included adopted and foster children. “Everybody looked well-fed, so they must have figured it out,” she said with a smile.

Heidi’s 11-year-old daughter Sofia is also a blind student at WSSB. Her extracurricular activities include speech club, guitar and singing lessons, track and swim meets, said Heidi. This year, Sofia will try downhill and cross country skiing with her school. Blind people “can learn and do anything,” said Heidi.

In addition to Sofia, Heidi and her husband Donny have two sons, ages 15 and 17, who also work in the food carts.

“As a family business we want to have blind/visually impaired employees in our food carts,” Heidi said.

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