On October 23rd, Starbucks opened their doors to the first ever U.S. signing store in Washington, D.C. In addition to the 20 to 25 people who are all fluent in American Sign Language, this location features lower tables, lower ordering counters, brighter lights, no background music, and larger text sizes, to accommodate for easier communication between baristas and customers.
Along with these features, the Washington, D.C. store, located in an existing Starbucks, includes tablets for customers to write their orders and screens to alert customers when drinks and food items are ready.
Aesthetically speaking, the new location will feature brighter lighting and many displays of ASL artwork. These original touches include "Starbucks" written in sign on aprons and in the window, a mural meant to encapsulate and celebrate deaf culture, and mugs designed by a deaf artist.
An article from Starbucks Newsroom says that there will be "a variety of enhancements to support the Deaf and hard of hearing partner and customer experience. Deaf baristas will have ASL aprons embroidered by a Deaf supplier, and hearing partners who sign will have an "I Sign" pin."
These are all initiatives put in place and sponsored by the Deaf Leadership of the Starbucks Access Alliance.
Store Manager Matthew Gilsbach, who is deaf himself, told Washingtonian in an interview, "We often talk about being the third place. We are your third place, you have your home, you have your work, and then you come here for a break between those two things to enjoy your day and your coffee," says Gilsbach. "So too does the deaf and hard of hearing community. And now they have direct access to other options for their third place. They don't have to feel isolated. Deaf and hard of hearing people have a place to come to call their own."
Starbucks has a history in both the positive and negative lights for getting involved in the news, and this store, creating opportunities for Deaf and hard of hearing customers, is yet another step in the right direction.
To find out how to sign your Starbucks order, Manager Matthew Gilsbach offers some tips here:
To all the pumpkin spice latte fans out there...
Starbucks Manager Matthew Gilsbach signing "pumpkin spice." Washingtonian
For all my friends who just like coffee...
Starbucks Manager Matthew Gilsbach signing "coffee." Washingtonian
And if you're trying to be polite...
Starbucks Manager Matthew Gilsbach signing "please and thank you." Washingtonian