Starbucks is opening its first sign language store in Japan

Japan is gettings its first Starbucks “signing store.” The new coffee shop will open in Tokyo with 25 staff members, 19 of whom are deaf and hard of hearing.

This will be Starbucks’ fifth signing store globally. The other four are located in Malaysia, China and the U.S. The move aims to expand career opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing employees and make the store more accessible, according to a press release

“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,” said Takafumi Minaguchi, CEO of Starbucks Coffee Japan.

While this is the first signing store, it is not the first time the company has addressed the deaf and hard of hearing community in Japan. Many Starbucks employees have studied Japanese Sign Language (JSL) to connect with the community — not only to provide better service but to offer signing classes and host coffee education seminars in JSL. 

The new store will also use accessible technology. Customers can use contactless speech-to-text voice recognition via a tablet, point to items on the menu or write on a notepad to order. The store’s digital signage allows patrons to track order progress. When an order is ready, animated sign language on the screen will alert the customer. 

“We’re looking forward to sharing new experiences with our customers and demonstrating the diversity of communication that they can experience at the signing store,” Royotaro Sato, a shift manager in Japan said.

If you liked this story, check out this costume designer who makes masks with windows so people can read lips.

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