Starbucks Opens First U.S. “Signing Store” to Serve Deaf Customers

Starbucks has converted a Washington, D.C., location to be fully friendly for people who are Deaf and hard of hearing.

The hearing impaired coffee drinkers in Washington, D.C., will be able to communicate with ease when ordering a latte at the new Starbucks “Signing Store.” We already love the Seattle-based chain for its inventive new drinks and of course, the Pumpkin Spice Latte, so making coffee more accessible and inclusive bumps them up even higher on our list!

About the New Store

Modeled after the first Starbucks Signing Store opened in Malaysia in 2016, the D.C. location employs 19 people who are Deaf, plus a handful of others who are hearing and capable of communicating in American Sign Language.

“All the barriers are gone from being able to communicate, or from people being able to demonstrate their skills and show off the talent they have. We think this store celebrates the culture of human connection on a deep level,” says Marthalee Galeota, senior manager for accessibility at Starbucks.

Located near Gallaudet University, a private university for those who are Deaf or hard of hearing, the employees of the newly converted store traveled to Malaysia to study the existing Signing Store as part of training.

This Starbucks store reminds us of “Quieter Hour” at one supermarket.

Partners take an orderStarbucks

The Store’s Neatest Features

Baristas will be outfitted with special ASL-embroidered aprons, and baristas who can communicate in sign language will sport an “I Sign” pin. The Starbucks also has exclusive coffee mugs and a colorful custom mural featuring a blend of ASL signs and coffee.

The store is also equipped with notepads and digital displays, as well as a two-way ordering console that allows customers and employees to type back and forth. Instead of a barista calling out when a drink is ready, the customer’s name will appear on a digital monitor. The Starbucks is open to all customers, so we hope you know how to sign “Grande Vanilla Latte, please!”

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Jacqueline Weiss
Jacqueline is a blogger and writer, passionate about sharing the latest in helpful tips and trends in food and cooking. In her spare time, you’ll find her trying new restaurants and experimenting in the kitchen.