Sign language in Starbucks stores2 min read
Despite the COVID-19 crisis, it is news of these days Starbucks has opened in Tokyo its fifth restaurant in the chain where the employees are able to communicate fluently with sign language.
The announcement was made in late June on Twitter and a few days later – on June 27th – this special and inclusive Kunitachi City store opened in the western districts of the Japanese capital, with 19 hearing impaired employees among 25 staff members.
Starbucks has been hiring Deaf and hard of hearing partners (employees) since we entered Japan in 1996, and these partners have made incredible impacts in their communitiesTakafumi Minaguchi, CEO of Starbucks Coffee Japan
Characterized by an environment that stimulates in various ways all those who have language or hearing problems, allowing them to enjoy coffee in an informal and social way, Kunitachi is the fifth “Signing Store” opened in a short time in the world after the one in Washington DC, and those in China and Malaysia. The store is the latest expression of Starbucks’ ongoing commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Customers have several options when ordering in the store, including contactless speech-to-text voice recognition through a tablet at the register, pointing to items on the menu, or writing on a notepad.
Digital signage lets customers track the progress of their order through the number printed on their receipt. When orders are ready, a sign language animation invites customers to pick up their purchases. The digital signage also shows frequently signed phrases of greeting for all customers to enjoy and immerse themselves in the world of sign language.
— スターバックス コーヒー (@Starbucks_J) June 24, 2020
Across Japan, Deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing partners studying Japanese Sign Language (JSL) have been creating more ways for their customers to connect with the Deaf community through sign language, including signing classes at their local stores, as well as coffee education seminars presented in sign language. Since 2018, select Starbucks stores in Japan have hosted “Signing Activity” pilot sessions led by Deaf or hard-of-hearing partners to prepare for the opening of a full-fledged Signing Store.