Coffee is by far one of the most popular drinks around the globe. In part because it does have a bit of an addiction factor to it, but also because many of us absolutely need that swift kick in the rump every morning to get the gears going inside our heads.

So, in the hopes of making coffee more accessible to a variety of people, Starbucks has recently opened its first coffee shop in Japan that caters to the mute and the deaf. Starbucks calls these the “Signing Stores” and it is the fifth of its kind.

On June 24, Starbucks Coffee in Japan announced on its Twitter that it will be opening a Starbucks Signing Store on June 27 in Kunitachi city, which is located in the western portion of the Tokyo Metropolis and has a high deaf population.

Starbucks announced that it’s opening a “Signing Store” coffee shop dedicated to those with impaired hearing

Image credits: Starbucks

It aims to create an inclusive environment, urging diversity and accessibility to everyone with a speech or hearing impairment and allowing them to enjoy coffee casually and socially. It was said that the store will have 19 deaf employees who will be supporting deaf customers.

“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 communities. IInspired by their passion, we created this store as a place of belonging, where our partners and customers can stay true to who they are and be inspired. This store truly represents infinite possibilities for all,” said Takafumi Minaguchi, the CEO of Starbucks Coffee Japan in their press release.

The cafe was said to open on June 27 in Kunitachi, Tokyo with the aim of creating a place for all deaf coffee lovers and hearing impaired employees to play an active role working together in their own unique ways

There are 19 hearing impaired partners (employees) currently working in this Signing Store

Image credits: Starbucks

For the time being, whilst the coronavirus pandemic is still at large, the store will only offer takeout coffee and patrons will have to receive a queuing ticket with a number on it before being served to avoid crowding and thus ensure the safety of all customers.

Despite the cafe focusing on those with hearing and speech disabilities, it will be open to all people regardless of whether they have difficulties communicating. There is a special menu sheet and writing instruments as well as special signs to facilitate communication for customers who cannot speak sign language.

Starbucks aimed to create a place where those with hearing impairments would feel like they belong, forming a diverse and accessible environment

Image credits: Starbucks

Image credits: Starbucks

These specialized Starbucks cafes can be recognized by a number of unique features: the Starbucks logo includes hand gestures, various signs and interior aesthetic solutions revolve around the theme of deafness, and tech that helps out with communication (digital notepads and consoles for ordering, including asking to cater to specific needs as well as regular conversation).

According to Starbucks, patrons have several options when ordering in the store. These include contactless speech-to-text voice recognition through a tablet at the register, pointing to items on the menu, or writing on a notepad.

The shop is open to everyone—not just those impaired—with technology and signs helping patrons communicate with the staff

Image credits: Starbucks

Image credits: Starbucks

“The opening of Japan’s first Signing Store is an important moment that represents the incredible passion of our deaf and hard of hearing partners across Japan. We want to showcase how the talent of the deaf and hard of hearing community can spark connections, inspire new possibilities, and help our partners grow their careers with Starbucks,” said Ryotaro Sato, Starbucks Shift Supervisor.

As mentioned previously, this may be the first Signing Store in Japan, but it is certainly not the first of its kind. Starbucks also has Signing Stores in Washington D.C., China, and Malaysia. The latter was also the first within Starbucks’ line of coffee shops dedicated to the mute and the deaf, being established back in 2016.

Besides this, Tokyo is also home to many other dining venues that cater to the mute and the deaf. These include Nok Cafe Tokyo, Sign Cafe ‘Very You’, Social Cafe ‘Sign With Me’, and many more.

Currently, this is Starbucks’ 5th Signing Store, with 4 others based in Washington D.C., China, and Malaysia

Image credits: Starbucks

The first Starbucks Signing Store was opened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia back in 2016

Image credits: Starbucks

According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that around 466 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss. It is also speculating that the numbers are likely to double in the next 30 years.

By having places like coffee shops, restaurants, general stores, and other commonplace businesses become more accessible to those with various disabilities is a great step forward as it not only makes public venues more inclusive to those impaired, but also serves as a place that educates the society on what it means to live with such disabilities and fosters positive social change, among many other things.

Check out Starbucks’ Signing Store in Washington D.C.

Image credits: Radio.Com

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