Starbucks is serving up something new.
The coffee chain announced on Thursday that they would be converting one of their stores in Washington, D.C. into a Signing Store — a unique store model staffed by Deaf and hard of hearing people and allies, all of whom are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL).
The store, scheduled to open this fall, is the first of its kind in the United States, but not the first time Starbucks has created a Signing Store.
A Starbucks Signing Store previously opened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2016.
This time, Starbucks Deaf Leadership, Accessibility office and Access Alliance partner network worked together to “implement design modifications and best practices to create the best possible store experience for Deaf customers and partners alike,” the company explained in a press release.
Among the changes made are visual communication options for ordering and receiving beverages at the hand-off counter for customers new to sign language, and an open environment floorpan with low glare reflective surfaces to help create a “Deaf Space” for customers.
Deaf baristas will be outfitted in American Sign Language (ASL) aprons embroidered by a Deaf supplier, while hearing partners who sign will wear an “I Sign” pin.
Various artwork and merchandise, include a custom mug, will also be available for purchase — all designed by Deaf artists.
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“Starbucks is to be commended for their affirmative approach to employing people with disabilities, in this case persons who are Deaf and hard of hearing,” said Iowa’s former U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, who was instrumental in introducing the Americans with Disabilities Act. “I know Starbucks will find Deaf and hard of hearing persons to be their most loyal, competent and reliable employees. Customers will enjoy interacting with these partners and perhaps learning a few good signs with their coffee!”
The Washington, D.C. Starbucks Signing Store will be located at 6th and H Street. It is set to open in October.
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