American sign language coffee shop

Starbucks Will Open First American Sign Language Signing Store in U.S.

Ordering a “grande java chocolate chip frappe, skimmed milk, extra chips, no whipped cream and an extra shot” is a mouthful for any Starbucks client. But for deaf people, just a simple cup of coffee could already pose a challenge! Accomplishing even the most basic transactions like ordering food in the hearing world is not always a smooth or stress-free experience for the deaf community. Luckily, Starbucks is making moves towards solving that. On July 19th, the Seattle-based company announced that it’ll take an innovative approach to incorporating Deaf Culture into its services by opening its very first American Sign Language (ASL) signing store. The store is set to open in October in Washington, D.C. near Gallaudet University. Read more about its exciting features and how this new full language service store will expose society to another language and culture!

More Customer Service for American Sign Language Users

Starting in October, Starbucks will help forge a greater connection with the deaf and hard of hearing community and those outside of it! The creation of Starbucks’ first signing store in the U.S. was led internal employees who are deaf. The store will be modeled after an existing signing store in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which previously opened in 2016.

The Malaysian store’s employees, who are both deaf and hearing, were enrolled in a 10-week sign language course in preparation for its opening. However, for the prospect store in Washington D.C., Starbucks will focus on hiring 20-25 deaf and hard of hearing individuals and hearing staff who are already fluent in American Sign Language or sign language interpreting. To help create an environment that better serves deaf customers and employees, hearing employees will wear pins that say “I sign.” Employees will don aprons embroidered by a supplier who is deaf. Various artwork and merchandise, such as custom mugs designed by deaf artists, will also be available for purchase.

Localization of Features Designed for American Sign Language Users

Starbucks stores nationwide already have implemented features for the deaf, including a coffee timer which flashes and vibrates, electronic writing pads, interpreter services, video remote interpreting services with simultaneous interpretation and tech pads for writing. On top of that, Starbucks will alter its store design to cater to ASL-speakers and customers and workers who are hearing-impaired.

Visual communication options for ordering and receiving beverages and food will be done at a hands-off counter. Customers’ names won’t be called out when orders are ready. The notification will instead appear on a visual display when it’s time for pick up. The store will also incorporate aspects of an open environment floor plan with low glare reflective surfaces to help create a “Deaf Space” for customers.  This will help reduce eye strain and fatigue, issues common among sign language users.

Surely, this inclusive environment will not just bring people together for a more equal customer experience from the customer’s end. It will increase employment opportunities as well as accessibility for deaf and hard of hearing people. At the same time, it’ll educate and shed light on the deaf community. Although Starbucks hasn’t yet mentioned about plans to open up more of these stores, hopefully other companies will follow its lead and be more proactive in considering how deaf individuals function in their environments!

 

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