Starbucks Opens First Sign Language Location in the U.S.
Employees at the Washington, D.C. store run operations using American Sign Language.
While new Starbucks seem to pop up every day on every block, a new location opened in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday that caught the whole country's attention: it's the franchise's first-ever U.S. location where every employee is fluent in American Sign Language. The opening comes two years after an ASL Starbucks opened in Malaysia and sparked the idea for a U.S. equivalent.
The D.C. Starbucks, which features designs from deaf artists, is located just a few blocks away from Gallaudet University, one of the world's most prestigious institutions for the education of deaf and hard-of-hearing students. On the storefront and on the aprons worn by employees, "Starbucks" is written in American Sign Language.
The store, converted from an old Starbucks, operates differently than before, too. According to the Washington Post, customers can write their orders on a digital pad, and when their drink is ready, their name will appear on a screen. Of course, they can also order in ASL—all of the location's 25 employees wear pins that say "I Sign."
As we reported in July, the café's surfaces are low-glare, and the layout is open, to help make communication easier for deaf and hard-of-hearing customers.
Kylie Garcia, a deaf employee who was just promoted from barista to shift supervisor, told the Washington Post, "People turned down offering me jobs because they aren’t willing to take the risk.”
“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, in a statement, according to USA Today. "We think this store celebrates the culture of human connection on a deep level.”
The new Starbucks is located at 625 H Street, NE.