Starbucks to open its first sign-language friendly coffee shop in the U.S.

Starbucks to open first ‘signing store’ in North America
WATCH: Starbucks to open first 'signing store' in North America

Starbucks has announced that it will open its first U.S.-based sign-language friendly store in Washington, D.C.

Slated to open in October, the company said the store is part of its latest efforts to connect with “diverse communities.”

The new store’s concept will take after a similar location in Malaysia, which opened in 2016. The Washington location will only hire employees who are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL).

The new shop will also give members of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community increased job opportunities. That’s especially good news for those who live in the area surrounding Gallaudet University, which is a private school for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

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In total, the location will hire 20 to 25 deaf individuals to work at the store, the company said it a press release.

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It added that the store’s concept was designed in partnership with the deaf community.

“This store is truly from partners, for partners, and we couldn’t have gotten here without the team of Deaf partners and allies from our Accessibility office and the Access Alliance partner network who came together to bring this vision to life,” Starbucks’ executive Rossann Williams said in the release.

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The store will also feature artwork from the community, while the Starbucks logo will be printed in ASL.

Like many other deaf-friendly spaces, it will be open concept with low-glare reflective surfaces that allow for easier communication.

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The move was praised by the U.S. National Association of the Deaf, who said it won’t just help deaf individuals but it is also good for business.

“Starbucks’s first signing store can show other corporations that including deaf people is good for business and can increase its market share,” Howard Rosenblum of the association told The Washington Post. 

“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 market.”

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Similar food and beverage stores have opened up across the world in the past, including here in Canada.

In 2014, a restaurant named Signs opened up in Toronto and was billed as the first of its kind in the country. However, it has since closed.