Starbucks unveils US ‘signing location’ for deaf customers

Starbucks unveiled on Tuesday its first U.S.-based store designed specifically for deaf and hard-of-hearing customers.

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Located in Washington, D.C., the “signing store” employs about 20 to 25 people – all of whom know American Sign Language. And to allow for easier hand movements and better communication, it features lower tables and counters, brighter lights and no background music.

“We’ll teach them some signs, ‘Here’s my name, what’s your name, pointing to the apron,’” Starbucks store manager Matthew Gilsbach said on Tuesday. “It’s a nice way to make that customer’s experience legendary, and that connection happen.”

The store also offers a picture menu so customers can point to which items they’d like to order, and an iPad so they can write down what they want.

Starbucks collaborated with Gallaudet University, the only one in the world that caters to the deaf and partial-hearing community to create the store.

In 2016, the Seattle-based coffee giant first opened a “signing store” in Malaysia.

“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, the executive vice president of U.S. retail for Starbucks, said in a news release.

Starbucks came under fire in April after two black men were wrongfully arrested in a Philadelphia store location. The coffee chain closed for a portion of an afternoon in May to conduct racial bias and sensitivity training in the wake of the scandal.