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Starbucks Opens First-Ever ‘Signing Store’ in US

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Starbucks has opened its first-ever “signing store” in the United States. The new café, catering to the deaf community, opened Tuesday in Washington, D.C.


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Tré Goins-Phillips

Starbucks has opened its first-ever “signing store” in the United States. The new café, catering to the deaf community, opened Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

Every employee working in the new location is fluent in American Sign Language (ASL). The Starbucks is at 6th and H Street NE, not far from Gallaudet University, the iconic 154-year-old school designed for students who are deaf and hard of hearing.

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“This is a first for us, and though it’s a mix of hearing, hard of hearing and Deaf partners, the common denominator is sign language, which puts everybody on an equal footing,” Marthalee Galeota, senior manager for accessibility at Starbucks, said in a press release.

The idea for the “signing store” was sparked by a similar café in Malaysia that opened in 2016 with nine deaf employees.

Starbucks’ newest location is designed with accessibility in mind, featuring more open space as well as anti-glare surfaces and visual displays to help patrons order and pick up their purchases.

Gallaudet President Roberta Cordano, who promised to return frequently to the new Starbucks, signed, “What you have created here is not just an opportunity for employment and leadership for people who are Deaf and a way for them to show their wonderful talents, but a place where we will be able to see the vibrancy of our language.”

Galeota said the goal of the all-ASL store is to break down the barriers of communication. She believes the new café “celebrates the culture of human connection on a deep level.”

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Howard Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf, said the new Starbucks is “making history.”

“You are here. Remember where you were this date,” he said in a statement. “I want to see many more of these. Please lead the way for other corporations and other businesses to open other signing stores and restaurants, starting this evening. Starting right here.”