Starbucks to Open "Signing Store Project," a Deaf-Inclusive Store in D.C.

This October, Starbucks is rolling out a more inclusive initiative to elevate the deaf community’s in-store experience, with the “Signing Store Project” to launch in Washington, D.C. Inspired in part by Adam Novsam, a deaf utility analyst at Starbucks’ HQ in Seattle, the store will be modeled after the first deaf-friendly Starbucks located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where employees were trained in an extensive 10-week sign language course that focused heavily on deaf culture.

apron_sign_language-439ddbf66d492d7b877baa017d8b4c8bf008c387-s800-c85The D.C. location will specifically seek to hire American Sign Language (ASL) fluent speakers, and distinguish deaf employees by way of an apron featuring ASL symbols, with a pin that distinguishes proficiency in sign language for hearing employees. Additional benefits will include a deaf customer-conducive physical space and store aesthetic, with low-glare surfaces to help combat eye strain, and specialized mobility, color and acoustics throughout.

According to NPR, "Our built environment, largely constructed by and for hearing individuals, presents a variety of surprising challenges to which deaf people have responded with a particular way of altering their surroundings to fit their unique ways of being," says Ryan Maliszewski, director of the Gallaudet Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute at Gallaudet University, a four-year college for the deaf and hard of hearing in Washington, D.C., located just a few blocks from the planned signing store.

Learn more about Starbucks' Signing Store Project here.

Photo credit: Starbucks