#StarbucksSigns: Coffee Chain Opens First US Sign-Language Store

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Starbucks Sign-Language Store

Continuing to push the envelope for societal outreach, Starbucks has opened its first US cafe staffed by employees who are partially or fully deaf and are capable of communicating in American Sign Language.

The ubiquitous coffee chain that is always looking for ways to build bridges to its customers opened the store this week in Washington, DC, near Gallaudet University, which educates the deaf and hard of hearing.

“I’m excited to be part of the signing store and to share with my students someday and say I was part of the first Deaf Starbucks in America,” Joey Lewis, a barista at the store who is a graduate student at Gallaudet, said in a Starbucks press release, through an interpreter. “I’m most excited about showing what a deaf-centered business can look like.”

Deaf baristas at the store wear ASL aprons embroidered by a deaf supplier. If a barista can communicate in sign language, he or she will wear an “I Sign” pin.

Starbucks hired as many as 25 people from across the country who know sign language to work at the store, which was converted from an existing Starbucks location, USA Today said.

“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,” said Marthalee Galeota, senior manager for accessibility at Starbucks, in a statement. “We think this store celebrates the culture of human connection on a deep level.”

The company said its Washington location was modeled on its first Signing Store, which opened in Malaysia in 2016.

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