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02 November 2020
A barista doesn’t need to hear you to know you want a caramel macchiato. At Starbucks’ new ‘Signing Store’ in Tokyo, customers point to items on a menu or use speech-to-text voice recognition to place their orders while interacting with deaf or hard-of-hearing employees.
The store recently opened in an area of Tokyo with strong ties to the deaf community. In addition to employing people who are deaf or hard of hearing, the Signing Store also incorporates sign language and other elements of deaf culture in its design and artwork. Digital displays not only help customers track their orders, but also show commonly signed phrases, encouraging everyone to try communicating in sign language. Tokyo is the fifth city to have a Starbucks Signing Store, with others in Kuala Lumpur, Washington D.C., Guangzhou and Penang.
Kudos to Starbucks for creating inclusive spaces where people with and without hearing loss can connect in an entirely quotidian setting. We’d love to see other large chains follow their lead, but there’s plenty of opportunity for smaller chains and independent retailers, too. First step? Reach out to your local deaf community and strike up a conversation.
The TrendWatching content team