A company in need of good news just got some: Starbucks announced this week that it plans to open its first US signing store, the Washington Post reports. Slated to be near Gallaudet University in Washington, DC—the only university for the deaf and hard-of-hearing worldwide—the new Starbucks will have up to 25 employees who all know American Sign Language whether they are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or hearing. Visual displays will also help customers and show when the orders can be picked up. The system is similar to Starbucks' first signing store, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where customers write notes on paper and see their orders appear on a screen.
Sadly, it's far from the typical experience for deaf customers: "Before I go into any store, I'm anticipating and figuring out how I'm going to order and communicate," Adam Novsam, a Starbucks deaf utility analyst at the company's Seattle headquarters, tells NPR. "Typically, it is not an easy or smooth experience. Sometimes I'll try to lipread, and that often results in misunderstanding my order, especially if they have a question." So Novsam advocated for the Washington store, which will feature a mug and art by a deaf artist, employee aprons with "Starbucks" shown in sign language, and events geared toward the local deaf community, CNN reports. (In less-good Starbucks news, baristas are accused of insulting customers by stuttering or writing a slur on a cup.)