Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Seattle, WA, United States (4E) – Starbucks has opened its first store in the United States staffed by employees either partially or fully deaf, and capable of communicating in American Sign Language (ASL).
The “Signing Store” in Washington, D.C. opened the other day to specifically serve hearing impaired customers. It is Starbucks second signing store in the world. The first such store opened in Malaysia in 2016.
The plan to open a Signing Store in the U.S. was finalizeed after American Starbucks employees traveled to Kuala Lumpur to study the Signing Store there.
The U.S. Signing Store at Sixth and H Streets near Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. employs 25 people from across the country that know ASL. All baristas who can communicate in sign language wear an “I Sign” pin.
The store is also equipped with digital displays and notepads. There’s also an ordering console with two-way keyboards so customers and employees can type back and forth. Among the other special deaf-friendly features are low-glare reflective surfaces.
“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,” said Marthalee Galeota, senior manager for accessibility at Starbucks. “We think this store celebrates the culture of human connection on a deep level.”
Starbucks said the Signing 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.
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