Surprise is home to 2 groundbreaking disability friendly cafes

Above: Spencer’s Place is a café that employs people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Lifestyle | 22 Apr |

Spencer’s Place and Sweet Tea are cafes in Surprise that are disability friendly.

Spencer’s Place is a café that employs people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

“I want every one of my employees and every one of my future employees to have a true sense of purpose,” said Karin York, the owner of Spencer’s Place.

York, who is a special education teacher as well, said that she was inspired to open Spencer’s Place because she noticed even though a lot of her former students were well prepared to join the workforce, they were unable to join.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2020, 82% of people with disabilities were unemployed.

Everyone’s workday at Spencer’s Place is similar; some employees require a little more support.

“We really home in on their abilities and then we try to find something in the shop that they’re capable of doing or that’s a really good skill for that person in particular,” York said.

“We look for a position to fill an employee,” she said.


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Some are trained on the register, some assist the barista, but ultimately “everyone pitches in,” York said.

“Everything has a purpose and a reason and we want everyone to wake up with a purpose,” she said.

“We’re really creative and we come up with new ideas and concoctions every week,” York said.

Spencer’s Place sells a variety of drinks, coffees, teas, lemonades, smoothies as well as pastries.

They have gluten free and vegan options available as well.

“Our product could sell itself, and then it’s enhanced by being made by made or delivered or wrung in at the register by an individual with a disability,” York said.

Spencer’s Place is located at 15341 W Waddell Rd B101, Surprise, AZ 85379.

They are open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. till 2:30 p.m.

They are open on Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. till 2 p.m.

Sweet Tea is a cozy deaf friendly café that sells a variety of drinks as well as home décor.

They sell a variety of teas, coffees, lemonades and baked goods.

Two of their most popular drinks are the chocolate peanut butter latte and the cotton candy lemonade. 

Everything that decorates the café is also for sale.

“I wanted people to have a place where they felt comfortable,” said Marianne White, the owner of Sweet Tea.

White is also a sign language interpreter.

She wanted to create a place where people who use American Sign Language(ASL) wouldn’t have to worry about having an interpreter with them.

“The Deaf community is so diverse,” White said.

“There’s some people who don’t mind maybe saying ‘Hey, can you order for me? Can you translate for me’ but some people who are very independent, they don’t want someone speaking for them,” White said.

“I want them to be able to come in and order freely and not have a language barrier and not have to worry about that,” White said.

White said to make restaurants more accessible for the Deaf community, restaurants could have a pen and paper at the register or a menu they could point to.

“Little things like that would make it so much easier,” White said.

Sweet Tea is located at 15278 W Bell Rd suite 102, Surprise, AZ 85374.

They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 7 a.m. till 5 p.m.

Both cafes opened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We thought by the end of March we would be ready [to open],” White said. “March came and also COVID came, and everything came to a screeching halt. For six months we couldn’t open.”

“We opened five weeks before COVID,” York said. “We went out of the gate running and COVID-19 obviously meant that we had to reduce our hours.”

“We’re climbing out of that, the community has kept us open and supported us heavily,” she said.

“The community has been really nice, very supportive,” White said.

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