On October 23rd, in Washington, DC, Starbucks opened the first ASL store. It’s located near Gallaudet University, which is the premier university in the country for any students who are hearing-impaired or deaf.
Back in July, the company announced that they will be converting their already existing store into a Signing Store and that it would be staffed entirely by people who can fluently communicate in American Sign Language. And about three months later, they opened the doors to this store.
The company opened the very first Signing Store back in 2016 in Malaysia. For that store, there was an entire group of American employees that traveled to Kuala Lumpur for its first anniversary, so that they could study the environment, and now, about a year later, the Signing Store in Washington, D.C. has been opened.
Howard A. Rosenblum, the CEO of the National Association of the Deaf came out with a statement saying that the association is applauding the company for opening a Signing Store. He added that they are glad Starbucks is taking such an innovative step when it comes to incorporating deaf culture into the mainstream. The opening of this store means that more are coming, and that will also mean an increase in employment opportunities for the deaf and hard of hearing people, while also educating the rest of society.
The coffee shop in Washington, D.C. has its own custom decor as well as branding, which include exclusive artwork, along with a mug that was designed by a deaf artist. All of the baristas wear buttons and aprons that say “I Sign” on them, which were embroidered by a deaf supplier. The store also has other special deaf-friendly features, such as low-glare reflective surfaces, and for customers who aren’t deaf but are new to sign language, they are also offering the ability to order and receive the beverages at the hand-off counter. Finally, when walking into the store, people who aren’t deaf will definitely notice that this Starbuck store, unlike all the others all over the world, doesn’t have any ambient music inside, but every week, they can go in to learn the new ASL word of the week on a chalkboard, which happened to be ‘coffee’ the first week they opened.