Starbucks is having a major milestone. The coffee giant recently announced the opening of their first signing store. Yep. That’s right. S-bucks, in an effort to promote inclusion, accessibility and diversity, will open a store where every store employee is fluent in American Sign Language.

Coffee-loving customers in Malaysia have been enjoying the benefits of a signing store for the past few years—the store opened in 2016. Now the retailer is bringing this concept to the United States, with a Washington, D.C. signing store set to open in October.

According to Rossann Williams, Starbucks executive vice president of U.S. Retail, “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.”

The store will be located near Gallaudet University at 6th & H Street; Gallaudet is a private university for students who are deaf and hard-of-hearing. The company plans to hire 20 to 25staff members who are deaf or hard-of-hearing and proficient in ASL. After opening the Malaysia Signing Store, Starbucks employees traveled to the Kuala Lumpur location to get a better understanding of how the hard-of-hearing-friendly coffee retailer really worked. They used the design as a basis for creating a similar store in the United States.

Not only will the store include a staff that’s fluent in ASL, it will also feature artwork and custom mugs designed by deaf artists. Baristas who are deaf or hard-of-hearing themselves will be designated by a specially embroidered apron while employees who aren’t (but also still fluent in ASL) will wear a pin that says, “I Sign.”

—Erica Loop

Featured Photo: Courtesy of Starbucks


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