Starbucks opens first store catered to deaf community

hen Deaf barista Kylie Garcia worked at a Starbucks in Target, she was confined to making drinks and could never interact with customers o rcoworkers. At her job at Starbucks’s new“signing store” in Washington, D.C., she was recently promoted to shift supervisor.This store, which opened in October, is different from the other Sarbucks in the U.S in that its entire staff is trained in American Sign Language (ASL), with most being Deaf.The store’s utility analyst, Adam Novsam, who is Deaf himself, in an interview with the Washington Post,noted many occurances of “constant communication barriers,” and Deaf customers working“to accommodate the [hearing] person”instead of it being the other way around. Novsam recalled that often when he placed an order, “the [worker][would] appear annoyed or seem exasperated that it was taking extra time.”In the store, customers can order drinks in ASL or by writing on a tech pad that will signal when the drinks are ready.Less obvious details such as low-glare surfaces, brighter lighting and broader lines of sight were implemented for more comfortable experiences in the store. The floor plan has also been changed, due to Gaulladet University’s ground breaking Deaf Space layout, to make lip reading and signing more visible. The tables are lower and more circular to allow easy vision of hand signs. This layout alleviates many recurrent problems that Deaf people face in their day-to-day interactions,allowing the barrier between Deaf and hearing communities to be broken. The Washington Post describes the store as being “specifically laid out and decorated to celebrate Deaf culture.” For example,Yiqiao Wang, a Deaf artist and professor at Gallaudet University, created a mural a n dc o f f e em u g s for the store, which depict Deaf and hearing cultures in harmony.“It is i m p o r t a n  t to bring the c o m m u n i t y of hearing and n o n – h e a r i n g  people together. In my ASL class, we go to Deaf events to have a better understanding of how their lives are. If there were a signing Starbucks here, it would provide a safe space forD eaf people to enjoy coffee, and give hearing people an opportunity to practice ASL and communication with the Deaf,”Sophomore Parker Beyersdorfer said.Many obstacles that Deaf people face stem from society itself,such as being discriminated against in jobs and housing, encountering countless communication barriers and being constantly treated as “other.”Many hope that the opening of the store will combat, at least marginally, the high levels of unemployment faced by the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community—in2014, only 48 percent of Deaf people were employed, according to the National Deaf Center, because of the lack of job and career opportunities that have been provided.Rina Siew, Starbucks corporate social responsibility manager, in an interview with National Public Radio,said, “Starbucks has always hired the Deaf.However, we could only give them very simple and menial tasks. After a while,we realized we needed to give them a platform where they could actually thrive.”The store has received praise from both the Deaf and hearing communities.Many baristas at the store remembered the meaningful experience of being trained in ASL. The company’s goal is to pave the way to a more inclusive society b yinspiring other businesses to follow suit.In an interview with the Washington Post,Howard Rosenblum. Chief Executive of the National Association of the Deaf said, “Starbucks’s first signing store can show other corporations that including deaf people is good for business and can increase its market share. Hiring deaf people or people with disability should not be viewed as a charity but as a way to improve a corporation’s reach across different segments of the mark