Starbucks has taken a big step towards inclusion and equality by opening the first U.S. outlet staffed entirely with employees who are deaf or hard of hearing. Every member of the staff is able to communicate using American Sign Language.
The cafe opened on Tuesday and is located at Sixth and H streets near Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. The location was chosen specifically because Gallaudet is a private university for deaf and hard of hearing people. Starbucks hired 25 people versed in ASL from all over the country.
In July, Starbucks released a statement discussing its plans:
"The store will create a distinctive retail experience for all customers, while offering a unique store format that promotes accessibility and offers employment and career advancement opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing people."
Marthalee Galeota, senior manager for accessibility at Starbucks, followed up, adding:
"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. We think this store celebrates the culture of human connection on a deep level."
The store is equipped with digital displays to serve customers who do not sign, as well as notepads for writing orders and a console with a two-way keyboard for customers and baristas to communicate through typing. Of course, you can always learn the sign for your favorite beverage.
Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin, who is deaf, was on hand for the grand opening.
The grand opening was a celebration for many.
Folks were even getting some ASL lessons.
The opening was celebrated online with the hashtag #StarbucksSigns.
Now, how do you sign Venti Cinnamon Dolce Latte?