When Starbucks opened its first ever Signing Store in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the brand was applauded for expanding its customer accessibility and employment opportunities. But the grand opening in 2016 was just the beginning, Now, the Signing Store model is (finally) coming to the US. This fall, the Starbucks location at 6th & H Street in Washington, DC will reopen as a Signing Store.

What is a Signing Store?

A Starbucks Signing Store is specially designed and staffed with Deaf and hard-of-hearing partners in mind. The first American location, which was intentionally placed near Gallaudet University (a university designed to be barrier-free for Deaf and hard of hearing students), has been remodeled and retrained to create the best possible experience for Deaf customers and partners.

After the Malaysian Signing Store opened in 2016, American partners wanted to get in on the action. And there seems to be no better place than within a community that is already supportive of Deaf and hard-of-hearing-centric innovations. The Deaf Leadership of the Starbucks Access Alliance played an integral role in creating the space, and the store will reopen in October.

The DC store will employ 20-25 Deaf, hard of hearing and hearing partners from across the country, with the primary requirement being that all are proficient in American Sign Language (ASL). Deaf baristas will wear ASL aprons embroidered by a Deaf supplier, and hearing partners will wear "I Sign" pins. There will be aspects of "Deaf Space" incorporated throughout the store, such as an open environment for communication and low glare reflective surfaces.

What else will be happening at the store?

The location will also incorporate visual communication options for ordering and receiving orders from the hand-off counter. Artwork and merchandise, including custom mugs and other memorabilia, will be specially designed by Deaf artists for the store.

The goal behind this initiative is to create a more welcoming environment for Starbucks customers, as well as create more employment opportunities for Deaf and hard-of-hearing partners throughout the Starbucks network. While this DC location is the first of its kind in the US, Starbucks hopes to open many more stores designed with  accessibility at the center.

I, for one, can't wait to head back home to DC and show some support for this location and encourage Starbucks to keep opening more.