Starbucks Caters to the Deaf With Redesigned DC Store

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Starbucks will operate the chain’s first U.S. deaf-friendly store at a redesigned Washington, D.C. location at 625 H Street NE, according to a press release from the coffee company.

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The 6th and H Street location, which is closed for renovations, is less than a mile from Gallaudet University—the world’s only university catered to deaf and hard of hearing students.

The store will offer employment opportunities for 20 to 25 deaf and hard of hearing people as well as hearing people who are fluent in American Sign Language, according to the release. The store’s format will promote accessibility for customers.

This is the company’s second signing store—the first opened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2016 with nine deaf employees, per the release.

“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,” Rossann Williams, Starbucks’ executive vice president of U.S. retail, said in a prepared statement.

The store will feature exclusive artwork and a custom mug designed by a deaf artist. Deaf baristas will have ASL aprons embroidered by a deaf supplier; hearing employees who sign will have an “I Sign” pin. For customers who don’t sign, the store will offer visual communication options for customer ordering.

Howard Rosenblum, the CEO of the National Association of the Deaf, said in a prepared statement that Starbucks’s innovative approach “will increase employment opportunities as well as accessibility for deaf and hard of hearing people, while at the same time educating and enlightening society.”

The store is slated to open in October, Williams said.