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Starbucks Opening First ‘Signing Store’ in U.S. for Deaf Customers


A new Starbucks experience is coming to America’s capital city. The popular coffee chain announced that the first store in the United States to be run entirely through American Sign Language (ASL) would open in the Washington D.C. area.

The store will employ two dozen deaf, hard of hearing and hearing employees who are all proficient in ASL. The new store location will be located near Gallaudet University, a private university for the deaf and hard of hearing students. Starbucks will fit right in, as other businesses around the school have made changes to be more inclusive to the deaf community around them.

The inside of the new store will be designed with DeafSpace, a design plan to improve the experience of deaf people, such as open lines of sight and glare resistant glass. Color, light, mobility, space, and proximity are all considerations as well when designing a space.

The announcement of this “signing store” comes nearly two years after a similar store opened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This store also employs deaf and hearing employees, who all use ASL while working. Deaf Starbucks utility analyst Adam Novsam, has been leading the effort to open a deaf-friendly Starbucks in the United States since the Malaysia store opened.

Having to lip read can lead to mistaken orders, and using a pen and paper to convey orders can be timing consuming when an employee has a question are two ways in which deaf people struggle to order when communicating with people who don’t use ASL.

Deaf baristas will wear aprons with the ASL for Starbucks on them, while hearing employees will wear an “I Sign” pin on their aprons, to easily identify the best communication methods. For customers who are not fluent in ASL, the store will offer access to directions for placing and receiving an order.