Feb 16, 2024 - Business

New, accessible Starbucks in D.C. to serve as model for U.S. locations

A woman in a wheelchair at the new Starbucks near Union Market with a backdrop of blonde wood features, an order status screen and employee in a green apron

Union Market's new Starbucks. Photo courtesy of Starbucks

Starbucks is opening on Friday a first-of-its-kind coffee shop near Union Market that's designed with accessibility in mind, particularly for those with disabilities.

Why it matters: Moving forward, the new D.C. store will serve as a model for all newly built and renovated Starbucks company-operated locations in the U.S.

What's new: The "inclusive spaces framework" includes a bunch of new design features and amenities that make the shop more accessible for those who are hearing or visually impaired, or need mobile assistance.

Highlights include:

  • A custom "order status board" displays where items are in the queue — think a flight status board at the airport — and gives visual cues when orders are ready.
  • Mobile point-of-sale systems are adjustable for better visibility, offer voice assist and screen magnification, and show images "to support language diversity."
  • Acoustic features that help reduce noise that can interfere with assistive devices like hearing aids, and lighting that minimizes glare, shadow patterns, and backlighting that can impede visual communication.
  • Lower counters with overhangs to better accommodate wheelchair access as well as people with service dogs or strollers.
  • Power-operated doors are equipped with vertical push buttons that are easier to activate from various heights and angles.

What they're saying: Store manager Matthew Gilsbach, who is deaf, tells Axios that half of his staff are hearing impaired and that the store's employees overall "are a diverse group that reflects the community we serve in D.C."

Zoom out: This is the second specialty Starbucks to open in the neighborhood. The megachain's first U.S. "signing store," staffed entirely by employees who are fluent in American Sign Language, opened in 2018 to cater to nearby Gallaudet University.

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