Starbucks Targets October for Opening of First U.S. Signing Store
SEATTLE — Starbucks will open its first Signing Store in the United States this October in Washington, D.C., as part of its ongoing efforts to connect with the diverse communities it serves.
A team of Deaf Starbucks employees and allies teamed to launch the unique store model, located at 6th & H Street near Gallaudet University, a university for the education of the Deaf and hard of hearing.
The store will create a distinctive retail experience for all customers, while offering a unique store format that promotes accessibility and offers employment and career advancement opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing people, the company said.
"The National Association of the Deaf applauds Starbucks for opening a Signing Store that employs deaf and hard of hearing people," said Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf. "Starbucks has taken an innovative approach to incorporating deaf culture that will increase employment opportunities as well as accessibility for deaf and hard of hearing people, while at the same time educating and enlightening society."
Starbucks plans to hire 20 to 25 deaf, hard of hearing and hearing employees from across the country to work at the Signing Store. Proficiency in American Sign Language (ASL) will be a requirement. This team is intended to help attract and develop talent and raise awareness and understanding of the deaf experience in the workforce, including career opportunities at Starbucks and beyond.
"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," said Rossann Williams, Starbucks executive vice president of U.S. Retail. "This store is truly from partners, for partners, and we couldn't have gotten here without the team of deaf partners and allies from our accessibility office and the Access Alliance partner network who came together to bring this vision to life. I look forward to the team welcoming the community to this store in October."
The first U.S. Signing Store was inspired by a similar Starbucks Signing Store that opened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2016 with nine deaf employees.
The new store will feature exclusive artwork and a custom mug designed by a deaf artist, as well as a variety of enhancements to support the deaf and hard of hearing partner and customer experience. Deaf baristas will have ASL aprons embroidered by a deaf supplier, and hearing partners who sign will have an "I Sign" pin.
The store will also incorporate aspects of Deaf Space, including an open environment for communication and low glare reflective surfaces. For customers new to sign language, the store will offer communication options for ordering and receiving beverages at the hand-off counter.
"Starbucks is to be commended for their affirmative approach to employing people with disabilities, in this case persons who are Deaf and hard of hearing," said former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, who was instrumental in introducing the Americans with Disabilities Act. "I know Starbucks will find deaf and hard of hearing persons to be their most loyal, competent and reliable employees. Customers will enjoy interacting with these partners and perhaps learning a few good signs with their coffee."