deaf starbucks3

This is so cool! Starbucks just opened a location in Malaysia specially designed to staff deaf workers.

This is a pertinent issue because deaf individuals are often discriminated against in the workforce, particularly in culinary environments.

Starbucks Malaysia teamed with the Society for the Interpreters for the Deaf to help ensure the store would be deaf-friendly. They brought in two interpreters to teach all employees, including hearing staff, sign language.

The stores shift manager Mohammad Aizad Bin Ariffin said in a statement,

“Since I joined Starbucks three years ago as a barista, my goal has been to become Starbucks Malaysia’s first Deaf store manager and after my recent promotion to shift manager, I’m well on way to achieving this dream. It’s an incredible feeling to share my journey and help develop other Deaf partners.”

deaf starbucks
courtesy Starbucks

The Bangsar Village II Starbucks will enable hearing visitors to fill out an order card to hand to the cashier and then check on a screen that the order is correct.

Problems Afoot

While the motives appear to be positive, the organization of the Starbucks does seem to raise few concerns that nobody seems to want to talk about.

Namely, based on Starbucks’ statement, as well as images of space, it doesn’t sound like the coffee shop is encouraging hearing customers to interact with the staff. By allowing to customers to fill out order cards, it allows visitors to ignore the deaf staff, rather than trying to communicate in a language they both can understand. Will there be depictions of signs on the menu so that customers can order in sign language if they want to?

deaf starbucks2
credit: Instagram

Also, why are customers allowed to double-check that their orders are correct via a screen? Is the implication that deaf individuals are less likely to get the order correct? We’ve never been to a Starbucks location in the U.S that has that kind of setup (If anyone has, please speak up!).

Furthermore, according to the Seattle Times, Starbucks has no plans to replicate the store in any other locations.

We sincerely hope that Starbucks will use this as a learning experience and continue to adjust accordingly.

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Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to started Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, and Tiger Beat. She’s currently obsessed with Vanderpump Rules, lipstick, and her kitty Tom.