An American Sign Language Starbucks Has Opened in Washington, D.C.
The new Starbucks in Washington, D.C. is unlike any other location on Earth. Instead of baristas calling out mispronounced names, they communicate with customers through American Sign Language, making it the chain's first-ever store with an all ASL-fluent staff, CNN reports.
The coffee shop opened on H Street NE in D.C. on Tuesday, October 23. Illustrations of hands signing the company's name on the storefront and on the umbrellas outside indicate that this isn't your average Starbucks. Inside the store (which doesn't play music), bright, low-glare lighting and an open floor plan facilitate visual communication. Guests who know ASL can walk up to a barista and sign their order—and for non-signers, there are tablets where they can make purchases and communicate with staff members.
The Starbucks is conveniently located near Gallaudet University—the world's only liberal arts college for the Deaf and hard of hearing—and the Model Secondary School for the Deaf. It offers hearing-impaired students a place where they don't need to worry about being understood, and also provides jobs to Deaf students who may have otherwise had trouble finding work due to language barriers. According to the National Deaf Center [PDF], only 48 percent of Deaf individuals are employed compared to 72 percent of the hearing population.
The ASL store may be a first for Starbucks, but it's not unheard-of in the industry. In 2017, Bogotá, Colombia opened its first-ever cafe geared toward Deaf patrons.