However, this popular coffee chain is now appealing to an entirely new audience. Starbucks recently opened their first signing store in Washington DC. Not only will this aid those who are required to use sign language as a result of disabilities, but all staff have been trained to use American Sign Language (ASL). Such a move has already made national headlines and this venture could very well be a sign of things to come.
One thing which has not changed is the wide selection of coffee and coffee-based products. The interior of this Washington DC store is still branded with Starbucks material and employees still don their trademark green aprons. However, this is where things get a bit interesting.
Perhaps to the slight chagrin of other customers, no ambient music is to be heard upon entering. The exterior umbrellas are stamped with the official company logo as well as its translation into sign language. There is even a board behind the main counter that teaches basic sign words to patrons. It is interesting to note that this is considered to be a "signing store"; that is, a store intended to solely cater to the needs of the hearing impaired.
One of the issues which this Washington DC signing store is attempting to combat involves the stigma associated with those who are deaf or who have chronic hearing difficulties. This demographic segment is said to suffer from few employment opportunities and a certain amount of overt discrimination. Starbucks is attempting to counter such scenarios by providing them with a "friendly space" that freely caters to their discrete requirements. It is also worth noting that this signing store is beneficial to other members of the local community, as they see that potential future opportunities await those who might otherwise be marginalised by mainstream society.
This Washington DC Starbucks signing store is also meant to promote integration between everyday citizens and those with hearing difficulties. Such a cultural exchange will allow both sides of the equation to better appreciate the perspective of the other. Assuming that this concept catches on, it may not be long before other communities see similar Starbucks outlets.
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