Starbucks Opening Its First Sign Language-Focused Store In US
Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) has announced that it will be opening its first ever signing store in the United States. The company plans to hire 20 to 25 deaf, hard of hearing and hearing partners from across the country to work at the store. All employees of the location will be required to be proficient in American Sign Language.
Starbucks will be opening the new signing location in Washington, D.C. near Gallaudet University, the world’s only university designed for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. The 150-year-old institution currently hosts about 1,900 students. The site chosen for the new store is an existing Starbucks near the school. The company has set the store’s opening for October of this year.
The store concept was created in conjunction with the ASL Deaf Studies Department at Gallaudet University. The store will incorporate the concept of Deaf Space into its design, including an open environment for ease of visual communication. Deaf employees will wear aprons that show “Starbucks” spelled in sign language and hearing employees will wear pins showing they can sign. The store will feature art and a mug designed by a deaf artist.
Starbucks says the store will be beneficial for deaf and hard-of-hearing employees and customers alike. Deaf individuals will be able to step up to the counter knowing they can communicate easily and effectively. A company representative said that there are about 200 current employees that identify as deaf or hard of hearing employed at Starbucks stores, roasting plants, and company offices around the world. Starbucks has more than 8,000 stores in the US alone.
Starbucks opened its very first signing store at a location in Malaysia in 2016. The location originally opened with nine deaf partners and worked to teach sign language to hearing employees. At that location, customers and employees communicate using menu cards that can be marked up with the preferred order. The Malaysia store was used as a model for the new signing store.