The new Knights on the Go Cafe sells the usual salads and sandwiches, but there is one thing that sets it apart from its contemporaries: It allows individuals with limited mobility to work behind its counter.
The Knights on the Go Cafe was unveiled at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday to a crowded audience packed with students and media in the atrium of Health and Public Affairs I.
The cafe is unique in that it has a special harness system that allows people with traumatic brain injuries or strokes to move around the workplace in a safe way. The technology utilizes a support structure with a harness to reduce the work on the legs of the person using it, while also catching them if they lose their balance.
This allows individuals with motor impairments a high-frequency environment in which they can focus on recovery, as well as practice communication skills and cognitive tasks.
The project was born out of a collaboration with the UCF Doctor of Physical Therapy Program, the College of Health and Public Affairs, UCF Business Development, Aramark and Professor Cole Galloway, a researcher from the University of Delaware.
Galloway developed the harness system with his team back in 2014. So far, the University of Delaware is the only other school with a harness cafe.
But that is something Galloway is trying to change.
Before the unveiling, Galloway spoke at a panel about the program, during which he said that “the challenge is to think beyond where we’re sitting today.”
“Please don’t let this be the mountaintop,” he said. “Let this be a stepping stone.”
And it won’t just be a stepping stone if Michael Frumkin, the dean of the College of Health and Public Affairs, has anything to say about it.
“We’re looking at building these same types of supports for students at the downtown campus,” he said. “The real goal here is for UCF to become the place where intelligent, bright, creative students, who just happen to have limited mobility, come as their first choice.”
He said that he wants UCF to become a national model for schools across the country and that these types of programs shouldn’t be limited to the walls of a classroom.
“I think it cuts across all age groups,” he said, referring to harness systems that could be placed everywhere from preschools to the homes of senior citizens.
Galloway said that these systems could even be used by individuals participating in X-Game sports.
Galloway said that the cafe was a good first step, and that he had high hopes for more programs of its kind to develop at UCF.
“There’s something in the air right now at UCF,” he said, adding that it took the university only three months to do what his program took three years to do.
Jennifer Tucker, the UCF physical therapy instructor who coordinated the project with Galloway, said that she shared his sentiment during the panel.
“It’s not about a cafe,” she said. “It’s really about so much more than that.”
That’s how Diana Tafur said she sees this cafe — as a stepping stone.
Tafur was injured in a drunk driving accident 10 years ago where she landed on her head after being ejected from a taxi. She suffered a traumatic brain injury and was in a coma for four-and-a-half months. She has gone through many years of rehabilitation, and her father, Ivan, said that he hopes this is something she can use to further that recovery.
“It’s something she could use to better herself,” he said.
Tafur has been using the harness since the cafe’s soft opening in January, and said that she is still getting used to wearing it.
But, when Galloway asked her in the middle of the panel when she wanted this project to happen, she had a simple answer for him.
“Yesterday,” she said.
Deanna Ferrante is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter @deannaferrante or email her at DeannaF@centralfloridafuture.com.