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Starbucks To Open First U.S. Sign Language Store In D.C.


America's most ubiquitous chain restaurant is going to open the country's first deaf-friendly store in Washington, D.C.

Starbucks plans to open its U.S. first sign language store at Sixth and H streets NE in October. The Signing Store will sit just a few blocks from Gallaudet University, a school with a federal charter to educate those who are deaf or hard of hearing, the company announced Thursday. 

Starbucks' first Signing Store is in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and the company said it plans to model the D.C. store — which is opening on one of D.C.'s hottest retail corridors — after its pilot concept. The Seattle-based chain plans to hire between 20 and 25 deaf or hard-of-hearing workers trained in American Sign Language to man the counter, although the store will be open to all customers.

“This is a historic moment in [Starbucks'] ongoing journey to connect with the Deaf and hard of hearing community, hire and engage Deaf and hard of hearing partners, and continue to find ways to be more inclusive, accessible and welcoming to all,” Starbucks Executive Vice President of U.S. Retail Rossann Williams said in a statement. “This store is truly from partners, for partners, and we couldn’t have gotten here without the team of Deaf partners and allies from our Accessibility office and the Access Alliance partner network who came together to bring this vision to life."

The store will be furnished with artwork by deaf artists and incorporate DeafSpace concepts, design that is meant to be friendly for the deaf and hard of hearing, like low-glare surfaces. Gallaudet and JBG Smith are partnering on a huge development a few blocks north on Sixth Street that will also incorporate DeafSpace principles.