Starbucks announced today that it will open its first U.S. Signing Store — a location staffed by deaf and hard-of-hearing people along with allies — in Washington, D.C. The existing Starbucks store in Washington, D.C. at 6th and H Street NE will re-open in October with the new format. The coffee brand is planning to hire 20 to 25 deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing employees from across the country to work at the Signing Store with a requirement that all be proficient in American Sign Language (ASL).
H Street NE is a popular destination for students at nearby Gallaudet University, a liberal arts university for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, and many restaurants in the neighborhood reach out to the Gallaudet community. This Starbucks Signing Store is inspired by a similar store that opened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2016 — and a team from Starbucks traveled to Malaysia to gain inspiration for best practices when opening the D.C. store.
Unique features at the H Street NE store will include an open environment for communication and low glare reflective surfaces, along with exclusive artwork and a custom mug designed by a deaf artist. Deaf baristas will have ASL aprons embroidered by a deaf supplier, and hearing partners who sign will have an “I Sign” pin. All these initiatives were created and sponsored by the Deaf Leadership of the Starbucks Access Alliance. For Starbucks customers who aren’t fluent in ASL, the store will offer communication options for ordering and receiving beverages at the hand-off counter.