Earlier this year, Starbucks was making national headlines for all the wrong reasons. The company has caught the spotlight yet again, but this time, for being progressive and inclusive.
Reports surfaced Thursday that later this year Starbucks will be opening its first signing store in the United States in Washington, D.C., designated for the deaf community, according to ABC News.
In the coffee giant’s announcement, they stated that the new location will provide “employment opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing people as a part of the company’s ongoing commitment to inclusion, accessibility and diversity."
The chain will hire 20 to 25 people from across the country, which will include deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing employees who will all be fluent in American sign language.
“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,” Starbucks said.
The deaf community appears to be embracing this new step forward.
"The National Association of the Deaf applauds Starbucks for opening a signing store that employs deaf and hard of hearing people,” said Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf. “Starbucks has taken an innovative approach to incorporating deaf culture that will increase employment opportunities as well as accessibility for deaf and hard of hearing people, while at the same time educating and enlightening society."
The Washington, D.C., store will be modeled after the company’s first signing store, which is located in Malaysia and opened back in 2016, USA Today reports.
In addition to hiring and serving members of the deaf community, the new signing store will also honor several talented deaf individuals by providing aprons embroidered by a deaf supplier; displaying exclusive artwork and even a custom mug designed by a deaf artist; and offering some special deaf-friendly features, including low-glare reflective surfaces.
While this initiative takes a different direction than the racially-focused efforts Starbucks was called upon to make after controversy earlier this year, it’s still an important and valuable move toward inclusion, acceptance, tolerance, and celebrating people’s differences rather than shunning them.