By Justin Schroth
Starbucks, for most people around the world this one word alone brings about memories of coffee, latte’s, cappuccino’s, or other caffeine-filled beverages people often enjoy. For most of these people, ordering a beverage or snack at a Starbucks is an easy matter, even most shops are accessible to wheelchairs or those living with physical disabilities. However, it is not so easy for everyone with disabilities, specifically people with hearing impairments trying place an order. For many coffee shops in Tokyo this is mostly true, until June 27, 2020 when Starbucks opened a new shop to expand their ever-growing desire to include and welcome everyone.
On this June day in Kunitachi City, Tokyo, Starbucks opened one of its new stores as Japan’s first Japanese-Sign-Language-inclusive store (the fifth Starbucks of this sort globally). On arrival, the first noticeable inclusion is the Starbucks sign itself spelled out in both Sign Language characters above the written word. While the characters may not be necessary, it does hint at the lengths to which this shop goes to make it a welcoming place for those with hearing impairments. Signs are just the beginning, the store itself is a workplace for many with hearing impairments, employing 19 such individuals (of 25 workers here), ensuring that the staff is well versed in Japanese Sign Language (JSL) communication. Those customers who do not Sign, technology is available to translate speech-to-text so that any employee can communicate easily with all their customers. Many stores would stop their inclusion here, but this Starbucks decided to truly embrace the inclusion of people living with hearing impairments and their non-impaired counterparts.
On display are many works of art inspired by sign language and connecting people together. Fascinating and whimsical art shows how to sign different useful words and thoughts in bright colors and playful design.
Additionally, this Starbucks host JSL learning workshops for those who desire to learn the language, as well as coffee education seminars presented in sign language so those living with hearing impairments can learn more about their favorite caffeine-rich beverage. This Starbucks, and its hardworking employees, are dedicated to including everyone in the community, and we at Accessible Japan can only cheer on such dedication and hope they continue to provide such wonderfully accessible services for years to come!
“Starbucks First Signing Store in Japan Celebrates Human Connection through Sign Language.” Starbucks Official Website, stories.starbucks.com/asia/stories/2020/starbucks-first-signing-store-in-japan/.