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Starbucks opens first store with sign language capability in China

Starbucks opens first store with sign language capability in China

For hearing impaired customers at a Starbucks in Guangzhou’s Yuexiu district, ordering coffee can be much easier. Starbucks China on Sunday opened its first store with sign language capability in the city’s oldest downtown area to offer more possibilities to the deaf and hard of hearing community.

The store employs people with hearing challenges and provides equal training opportunities. All employees in the store are professional baristas and can communicate in sign language.

The store also is aimed at raising awareness and understanding of deaf and hearing impaired experiences in the workplace, according to Starbucks.

Starbucks employs over 100 people with special needs in China.

To nurture talent and create more opportunities for the deaf workforce, Starbucks has partnered with the Guangdong Deaf People Association to offer professional skills training and sign language courses.

“Diversity and inclusiveness is the general trend of community development. Thanks to Starbucks, deaf partners are empowered to develop their careers in a vibrant and supportive environment, while the store provides a strong platform to drive societal awareness around deaf culture and the needs of the community,” said Fan Yitao, vice-chairman of China Deaf People Association.

“We also hope that more social forces will join us in the future, and we will achieve equal employment in the future nationwide,” Fan added.

The coffee chain has more than 3,800 stores in the country; the move is part of its ongoing efforts to get closer to local communities.

“Starbucks China will continue to build a different kind of company and use our large scale of operations to create the perfect place for everyone in China, no matter what their needs are,” said Belinda Wong, chief executive officer of Starbucks China.

The store design has taken special needs into consideration. Sign language symbols are printed on umbrellas in front of the store, and there are indicators throughout. All baristas will wear aprons with the word “Starbucks” embroidered in sign language, while deaf employees will wear an additional pin.

The store is equipped with a customized “easy-ordering” system. Customers and partners will be able to communicate using notepads and two-way digital displays.

For customers new to sign language, there will be a dedicated area for customers to write down their orders on an electronic board and wireless vibrating pagers will notify customers when their orders are ready.

To create an inclusive environment and encourage customers to learn more about the deaf community, the store also will offer sign language lessons and coffee workshops in sign language, in partnership with the Guangdong Deaf People Association.

This is Starbucks’ third signing store worldwide, after Kuala Lumpur and Washington.

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