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One of the biggest concerns of 2018, is being inclusive and providing representation for minorities. For example, the movie Hidden Figures delivered a great representation of African Americans in the STEM field. Furthermore, it gave inclusiveness to all young girls who want to pursue the same careers. Also, the movie Black Panther provided representation for African American families all over the country. Not only did kids want to obtain vibranium and become superheroes, but adults wished for the unity of the black community that the movie displayed.  

Back in July the successful coffee chain, Starbucks announced they would be opening a store strictly focusing on establishing a better experience for the deaf. The plan was to open in Washington D.C. by Gallaudet University, an educational institution for the higher learning of the deaf. In addition, each employee would be fluent in American Sign Language. This past Tuesday, October 23rd, the store had its grand opening!  

Rossann Williams, Starbucks executive vice president of U.S. retail stated, “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.” 

As soon as customers walk into the door, they’re greeted in sign language by employees – who don’t have to be a part of the deaf or hard hearing community. Once they reach the counter, customers can order in ASL or by writing it down on the tablet system. After the order is placed, a television screen to the left of the register shows when a customer’s order is ready. 

The store also has some cute elements to expand on their inclusiveness. A board presents the “Sign of the Week” with a pictorial on how to perform the sign and what word the sign means. In addition, Starbucks made sure all the artwork inside the building was created by deaf artists. This includes the artwork on the walls and on the mugs they sell.  

Lastly, Starbucks teamed up with Gallaudet University to deliver a “deaf space.” The space is specifically designed with elements to extend the functionality for the deaf community. In the store, the lights are kept low to reduce brightness. Furthermore, all countertops are matte, so no glares appear during a conversation. Tables and seating are lower to the ground as well. Each element is designed to help with the visibility of the customers. 

Earlier this year, an employee of the company stopped two African American males from sitting in the store. Following this incident, a different employee mocked a customer with a stutter. Both of the employees from these incidents were fired and Starbucks vowed that they had “zero tolerance for discrimination.” After revealing they would be banning plastic straws, Starbucks received the label of being exclusive instead of inclusive. Many disability advocates were concerned that people with who depend on straws, specifically with medical problems, will suffer. By opening this signing store, Starbucks has proved to uphold their vow. Moreover, they have begun to clean up their reputations with various minorities across the world.  

Da'Zhane Johnson is a Junior at Clark Atlanta University. She often finds herself eagerly waiting in a Starbucks line, or happily looking for new coffee orders to add to her collection. Her major is Mass Media Arts with a hard concentration in journalism, so in her spare time, she's usually writing. To read more of her articles, check her out on Instagram @bydazh!
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