Coffee giant Starbucks will open its first Signing Store in the U.S. this October. The store will be staffed by Deaf Starbucks partners (employees) and will offer a unique store format that promotes accessibility, as well as employment and career advancement opportunities for Deaf and hard of hearing people. The store will be located in Washington, D.C. at 6th & H Street near Gallaudet University.
The announcement was praised by Deaf advocacy groups.
“The National Association of the Deaf applauds Starbucks for opening a Signing Store that employs Deaf and hard of hearing people,” said Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf.
“Starbucks has taken an innovative approach to incorporating Deaf Culture that will increase employment opportunities as well as accessibility for Deaf and hard of hearing people, while at the same time educating and enlightening society.”
The company announced that it will hire twenty to twenty-five Deaf, hard of hearing and hearing partners from around the U.S. to work at the store. All employees will be required to be proficient in American Sign Language (ASL).
The idea to open a Signing Store in the U.S. was inspired by a similar store opened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2016. That store started with nine Deaf partners.
Starbucks employees in the U.S. advocated for the opening of a similar store in the States and traveled to Malaysia last year to commemorate the first anniversary of that country’s location and to gain insight into the design and operation of the store.
The U.S. store will sport a variety of enhancements for Deaf and hard of hearing partners and customers. Deaf baristas will wear ASL aprons embroidered by a Deaf supplier and hearing partners will sport “I Sign” pins. The store will include an open environment and low glare reflective surfaces. There will also be communication options for ordering beverages for customers who are new to sign language.
“This is a historic moment in Starbucks ongoing journey to connect with the Deaf and hard of hearing community, hire and engage Deaf and hard of hearing partners, and continue to find ways to be more inclusive, accessible and welcoming to all,” said Rossann Williams, Starbucks executive vice president of U.S. Retail.
“This store is truly from partners, for partners, and we couldn’t have gotten here without the team of Deaf partners and allies from our Accessibility office and the Access Alliance partner network who came together to bring this vision to life. I look forward to the team welcoming the community to this store in October.”
Photo by Starbucks