Starbucks has made coffee easily accessible to millions around the U.S., and while we’ve probably gotten used to the seamless Starbucks experience, it is not that easy for the deaf community.
With that in mind, Starbucks is opening its first U.S. Signing Store in Washington D.C., where all employees will be fluent in American Sign Language.
“This is a historic moment in Starbucks’ ongoing journey to connect with the Deaf and hard of hearing community,” Rossann Williams, Starbucks executive vice president of U.S. Retail said.
The store itself is a pre-existing Starbucks that will be re-opened as the Signing Store, offering employment opportunities to the deaf, hard of hearing, and individuals familiar with ASL.
The inspiration for the store actually came from Malaysia, which opened the first sign language-friendly store in 2016. Around 75 percent of the Malaysian store is actually deaf, and orders are handled DMV-style, where order numbers appear on a TV screen when ready to be picked up.
There have been moments where Baristas have taken things into their own hands, learning sign for their customers. For example, in Leesburg, Virginia, there was a Starbucks employee who learned to sign specifically to help deaf patron who frequented the store.
What a sweet Starbucks cashier lady wrote it! pic.twitter.com/8dEsHXtTMP
— Ibby Piracha (@Deafibbypiracha) February 21, 2016
In a Florida Starbucks, they actually had a system in place that allowed the hearing impaired to order at the drive-thru. When pulling up to order, the menu board turned into a live screen, where barista Katie Wyble, who was fluent in ASL, appeared and took the order for deaf customers.
The baristas at the Washington D.C. store will be wearing “I Sign” pins on their aprons, and there will merch inspired by deaf artists available in the store, as well.
The Signing Store is expected to open in October 2018, and is bound to offer a quieter, less hectic experience than one might get at any other Starbucks.