Starbucks is about to become more inclusive thanks to the announcement of a new “Signing Store” in Washington, D.C. Spearheaded by a team of deaf Starbucks employees and allies, all employees at the Signing Store will be fluent in American Sign Language. The new Starbucks will open near Gallaudet University, a private university for deaf and hard of hearing students.
This isn't Starbucks' first Signing Store. The project took inspiration from a Signing Store in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which opened in 2016. Aside from providing a space that is more accessible to deaf and hard of hearing customers, the new store will give employment opportunities to 20 to 25 deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing partners who are proficient in ASL. The aim is to continue to raise awareness about the deaf experience in the workplace and develop new talent.
“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.”
The store, which will open in early October, will feature exclusive artwork and a custom mug by a deaf artist, as well as enhancements to support the customer experience. This includes special ASL aprons embroidered by a deaf supplier, pins for hearing employees that state “I Sign,” as well as an open environment and low reflective surfaces for easier communication.