Starbucks announced plans to open its first Singing Store in the U.S., a café designed specifically for the deaf community. The store is opening in Washington D.C., where all baristas will be versed in American Sign Language (ASL). While the store will appeal to all customers, it will promote accessibility and offer employment to the Deaf and hard of hearing community.
“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.”
According to Starbucks, the store will employee up to 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 ASL. Says Starbucks:
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 partners in the U.S. voiced the opportunity to create a similar third-place experience for the Deaf and hard of hearing community in the U.S., and 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.
Deaf baristas will have special ASL aprons (embroidered by a deaf supplier), and hearing partners who sign will have an “I Sign” pin. According to the company, the Singing 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.”
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The Signing Store is scheduled to open in early October.