Starbucks has opened its first signing store, which will provide employment opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing people, according to a company statement.
All employees at the Washington, DC store are bilingual in English and American Sign Language (ASL). The concept, which Starbucks claims is the first of its kind in the US, was inspired by a trip to a similar store in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2016.
Starbucks worked with deaf and hard of hearing designers and artists to create an in-store experience that would facilitate ASL. Deaf partners at the signing store wear the classic Starbucks green apron, but embroidered underneath the logo is the ASL finger-spelling of the company name.
“I'm so excited to see the first signing store here in America – especially with the design inside the store that's deaf-friendly, staff that use ASL, and artwork by deaf artists,” said deaf artist Jena Floyd, whose artwork was featured on special mugs at the signing store.
“This is something tangible we as deaf people can show what we're capable of as contributing citizens of our society.”
The store was also ‘designed for communication’ by incorporating aspects of DeafSpace, a project from the ASL deaf studies department at neighboring Gallaudet, a university designed to educate deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
This approach to design addresses space, proximity, sensory reach, mobility, light, color and acoustics. It also includes an open environment, low-glare surfaces and more visual displays.
“For hearing customers who don’t know ASL…the Signing Store offers an opportunity to learn something,” according to a statement from Starbucks.
“Maybe it’s how to sign a word like espresso in ASL, from the chalkboard above the register with the ‘sign of the week.’ Or maybe it’s a little insight into the deaf experience or deaf culture, like seeing the way deaf partners interact with each other, or being a hearing customer able to communicate with partners and order a beverage without speaking a word.”
According to a statement, Starbucks has over 200 deaf employees worldwide. The goal of a signing store is to put everybody—deaf, hard of hearing and hearing—on equal footing.