Starbucks, Deaf
In collaboration with The Society of Interpreters for the Deaf (SID), Starbucks Malaysia launched the first-of-its-kind, high-tech, deaf-friendly store in a busy shopping mall with an initial staff of ten deaf employees. A big "hooray" for inclusion! Click here to read more. 
| Credit: © Starbucks

After PSLs overwhelming basicness, Starbucks’ baristas’ inability to hear people’s names correctly is probably the biggest Starbucks trope out there. But this latest Starbucks headline isn’t written by The Onion, and the story behind it is far more heartwarming than humorous: This week, the global coffee giant announced it is opening a location in Kuala Lumpur primarily staffed by deaf baristas.

In collaboration with The Society of Interpreters for the Deaf (SID), Starbucks Malaysia will be launching the first-of-its-kind store in a busy shopping mall with an initial staff consisting of ten deaf employees and three hearing ones. According to the brand, SID was integral in getting things up and running, providing interpreters for hiring and training, as well as teaching sign language to the hearing team members.

“We are proud to support people with disabilities through fulfilling work to create a culture of empowerment and to bring new perspectives to the workplace, which ultimately makes us a better company,” Sydney Quays, managing director of Starbucks Malaysia, said in a news release. “We have a rich history of creating opportunities for underrepresented groups and our aim is to raise public awareness of the value people with disabilities bring to the workplace and to enrich the lives of many more Deaf partners.”

Of course, this Starbucks still has to cater to all customers, so the location will be equipped with plenty of extra technology to make sure latte lovers who aren’t familiar with sign language will still be able to communicate with staff. The company states that the store is “equipped with a Starbucks Card kiosk to enable visitors to check their card balance and rewards before requesting drinks and food items” and orders are “displayed on a point-of-sale dual screen, so customers can see that the order is accurate.” Oh, and instead of Starbucks’ signature screaming-out-your-name system, an “order number is displayed on a large screen above the pick-up counter” when drinks are ready.

Frankly, these sound like the kind of improvements that could make any Starbucks a better place to get a coffee. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s give some credit to the company for getting this unique store up and running.