Starbucks will open its first Signing Store in the U.S. in Washington, D.C. this October with a unique design and experience.
A team of Deaf Starbucks employees and allies led the effort to launch this unique store model in the U.S., which will be located at 6th & H Street near Gallaudet University, a bustling hub that is Deaf-friendly. The store will create a distinctive retail experience for all customers, while offering a unique store format that promotes accessibility and offers employment and career advancement opportunities for Deaf and hard of hearing people.
The idea to open a Signing Store in the U.S. was inspired by a similar Starbucks Signing Store which opened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2016 with nine Deaf partners. Starbucks employees in the U.S. traveled to Malaysia last July for the first-year anniversary to understand design modifications and gain knowledge to create the best possible store experience for Deaf and hard of hearing customers in the U.S. An internal team made up of Starbucks Deaf Leadership, Accessibility office and Access Alliance is playing a critical role to support this historic store opening.
The store will feature a variety of enhancements to support the Deaf and hard of hearing partner and customer experience. Deaf baristas will have ASL aprons embroidered by a Deaf supplier, and hearing partners who sign will have an “I Sign” pin. These initiatives were created and sponsored by the Deaf Leadership of the Starbucks Access Alliance. The store will also incorporate aspects of Deaf Space, including an open environment for communication and low glare reflective surfaces. For customers new to sign language, the store will offer communication options for ordering and receiving beverages at the hand-off counter.
“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 Former U.S. Senator Tom Harkin from Iowa 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!”
Starbucks will hire 20-25 Deaf, hard of hearing and hearing partners from across the country to work at the Signing Store with a requirement that all be proficient in American Sign Language (ASL).
“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 (employees), 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.”