SEATTLE — Starbucks Corp. on Oct. 23 announced it has opened its first deaf-friendly sign language store in the United States in Washington, D.C. The new store format will be a distinctive retail experience that promotes accessibility and offers employment and career advancement opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing people.
Twenty to 25 deaf and hard of hearing people and hearing partners will work at the store, with a requirement that all be proficient in American Sign Language (A.S.L). This will help to attract and develop other talent with A.S.L. capabilities while raising awareness and understanding of the deaf experience in the workforce.
Among the features of the new store are A.S.L. aprons embroidered by a deaf supplier, and hearing partners who sign will have an “I Sign” pin. There will be an open environment for communication and low glare reflective surfaces. The store will offer communication options for ordering and receiving beverages at the hand-off counter. The store also will feature exclusive artwork and a custom mug designed by a deaf artist.
“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, executive vice-president of U.S. Retail at Starbucks.
Not only does the store provide a welcoming experience for customers, but it is also a place to provide jobs and career potential for deaf and hard of hearing people who may have been pushed aside.
“This store hopefully also shows what’s possible, opportunity-wise,” said Matthew Gilsbach, the store’s manager. “As a deaf person, you can have a job and you can have money and you can have life skills. And you can engage with people in the signing and non-signing community. I’m excited to start this journey and to see what the deaf and hearing communities can do together.”