Starbucks Opens First Deaf-Friendly Store With Warm Greetings In Sign Language

Starbucks opened its first “signing store” in the United States Tuesday to the delight of many in the deaf community.

A video posted to Twitter shows customers being warmly greeted as they enter the new Washington, D.C. location.

Other videos posted online show other cool features the deaf-centric space boasts, including artwork and designs on mugs created by deaf artists, a tablet system where customers can write rather than speak (or sign) an order, and a screen that flashes a customer’s name when their order is ready.

Lights are kept bright in the store and counters are matte to reduce glare. Chairs and tables are low to the ground to help with visibility. Fingerspelling of the word “Starbucks” is also featured throughout the store, including on barista’s aprons.

Employees, who are all fluent in ASL, are also taught how to do their jobs in ASL, per CNN. The store also offers job opportunities to the community.

“At the point of sale, people see [signing] immediately and sometimes stand there in awe,” Kylie Garcia, a deaf barista, told CNN. “They’re used to talking to people right away. It’s a role reversal.”

The store also got a glowing endorsement from Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin, who is deaf and visited the store on opening day. In one video posted to her Twitter page, Matlin shows off the store’s “Starbucks Sign” for the week, which appears to show how to sign different coffee-related words each week.

Starbucks opened its D.C. location close to Gallaudet University, an educational institution for deaf and hard-of-hearing students..

Though this is a huge step for inclusiveness, Starbucks hasn’t always had the needs of the disability community in mind. The Seattle-based company had to backpedal a bit in July when it announced that it was banning all plastic straws by 2020 due to backlash from disability advocates who pointed out that some people with some medical issues depend on straws to drink. Starbucks also fired an employee after they mocked a customer with a stutter.

Although the company isn’t perfect, we’re sure many deaf people are enjoying this new location quite a latte.

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