Starbucks opens store with employees who know sign language

by Emily Douglas26 Jul 2018

Starbucks has recently made headlines across the global after shutting down their franchises for an afternoon, in order to train their staff in dealing with racial bias.

Now the coffee giant has displayed their commitment to diversity once again, by opening ‘signing stores’ for deaf customers.

The first outlet will open in Washington close to Gallaudet University, a university with a lot of deaf students in attendance.

“Starbucks has taken an innovative approach to incorporating deaf culture that will increase employment opportunities as well as accessibility for deaf and hard-of-hearing people, while at the same time educating and enlightening society,” explained Howards Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf.

The store will employee around 20 deaf or heard of hearing employees who will be able to communicate with customers using American Sign Language (ASL).

Speaking to NPR, Adam Novsam, a deaf utility analyst for Starbucks HQ, explained the difficulties of communicating drink orders when heard of hearing.

"Before I go into any store, I'm anticipating and figuring out how I'm going to order and communicate. Typically, it is not an easy or smooth experience," he said.

"Sometimes I'll try to lipread, and that often results in misunderstanding my order, especially if they have a question. Sometimes I will gesture for paper and pen and the person will appear annoyed with me or seem exasperated that it is taking extra time."

 

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