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The First Sign Language Starbucks in U.S. Caters to Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Coffee Drinkers

It looks like a regular Starbucks. Smells like one, too. But you won’t hear music or chatter in the new Starbucks that recently opened in a northern neighborhood of Washington DC. This Starbucks is the first US store to use sign langage to offer a cafe experience for deaf and hard-of-hearing customers.

The First Signing Store in Malaysia

In 2016 Starbucks opened a signing store for the hearing impaired in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia. The new store in DC is modeled after the success of the Malaysian store. All staff must know sign language to communicate with customers and each other. Many of the baristas, in fact, are hearing-challenged themselves.

Starbucks chose the location for its proximity to the campus of Gallaudet, the only university in the world with a entire curriculum accessible to deaf and heard-of-hearing students.

Blue Chips

A Double Shot of Thoughtfulness

The store’s unique design is inspired by its customers. Images of hands signing float over the entrance. They also decorate the barrista’s aprons with individual hands signing out each letter of Starbucks. A chalkboard behind the bar teaches customers the “sign of the week. All staff is fluent in American Sign Language.

Customers have several options for ordering. They can sign their order, or point to a visual menu. They can also write out their order on a tech pad unique to the store. When the order is ready, the customer’s name appears on a monitor.



There is a large deaf population in Washington DC. The signing Starbucks is an effort to align with the company’s effort to create an inclusive environment for everyone. They aim to provide an atmosphere where deaf and hard-of-hearing people can socialize and relax.

Joshua Trujillo, Starbucks

For those unfamiliar with ASL, here’s a quick lesson: The sign for coffee is moving of two fists stacked on top of each other to create create a grinding motion. More coffee, and more kindness, please.

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