First Deaf-Friendly Starbucks Opens in Washington, DC


Baristas sign "Starbucks" in American sign language.

Sophia Acuna, Author

So many of our day-to-day tasks require listening or talking to someone–ordering food at a drive-thru, taking notes in class, calling someone on the phone, the list could go on and on. We might not even think about doing them. But for deaf people, tasks like these that may appear simple to those who are not deaf become unnecessarily difficult.  Take, for example, ordering a coffee at Starbucks. It’s most likely that the cashier doesn’t know American sign language (ASL). What happens when your order is ready and they call out your name, but you can’t hear them? There are so many more things that someone who is deaf or hard-of-hearing would have to think about than someone who isn’t deaf. That’s why Starbucks decided to open a store in Washington, DC that caters towards those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

At this Starbucks, every barista is fluent in ASL. For those who prefer not to sign, there is also a tablet where customers can write down their order. When a customer’s order is ready, a screen will flash a customer’s name so they know it’s ready.

The establishment of this Starbucks also creates new opportunities for deaf people. In the past, deaf people wouldn’t be able to find a job as a barista because of the language barrier, but now they can.

Of course, this is just the beginning. So far, there is only one deaf-friendly Starbucks out there. Maybe this will encourage other businesses to follow Starbucks’s lead and create deaf-friendly stores as well.