Starbucks Opens First Sign Language Store in U.S.

The Washington, D.C., location is staffed with employees who sign and offers DeafSpace design.

October 30, 2018

WASHINGTON – Starbucks has opened its first U.S. sign language location just steps from Gallaudet University, which educates hard-of-hearing and deaf students. Starbucks has another sign language store in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

All workers at the store can communicate to customers in American Sign Language (ASL). Deaf employees wear a green Starbucks apron with the ASL finger spelling of the brand while hearing associates wear the regular green apron with a “I Sign” pin.

The store has more open space, vision displays for order pickup and anti-glare surfaces. “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. “We think this store celebrates the culture of human connection on a deep level.”

The new location features:

  • A mural by deaf artist Yiqiao Wang, who’s also an adjunct professor at Gallaudet University. “In the center of the piece, you can see two very strong hands, arms raised up, rising from the bottom of the artwork,” Wang said. “It means community in ASL, and bringing various backgrounds, languages and people all together.”
  • DeafSpace design, which includes more open spaces for communication and low-glare surfaces.
  • High-tech options. To assist customers new to sign language, the store has digital notepads and a two-way keyboard for communication.
  • Education. For customers not familiar with ASL, the store provides opportunities to learn, such as via the chalkboard “sign of the week.”
  • Custom table umbrellas. When approaching the store, the umbrellas at outside tables feature Starbucks both in letters and ASL finger-spelling.
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