Starbucks plans unit geared toward deaf and hard-of-hearing customers, employees

The country’s first Signing Store is scheduled to launch this fall.

Starbucks plans to open a Washington, D.C., unit this fall that will be staffed entirely by employees proficient in American Sign Language, the coffee company announced Thursday.

The Signing Store will be the first in the U.S. for Starbucks, which opened a similar concept in Malaysia in 2016.

In addition to hiring 20 to 25 deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing employees who know American Sign Language, the new store will feature a variety of special touches, including artwork created by a deaf artist, aprons embroidered with Starbucks in ASL letters (made by a deaf supplier), low-glare reflective surfaces and an open store plan to facilitate sign language communication. Hearing employees who sign will wear “I Sign” pins. Alternate communication options for ordering and receiving beverages will be available for those who are less proficient in ASL.

The Signing Store, scheduled to open in October, will be located near Gallaudet University, a private university that has historically served students who are deaf and hard of hearing.


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