Starbucks today announced it has opened its first Signing Store in Guangzhou, China, dedicated to offering employment and career advancement opportunities for the Deaf and hard of hearing community. The store will serve as a welcoming hub for those passionate about improving accessibility and experiences for all and is located near the recognized Guangdong Disabled Association and Guangdong Deaf People Association.
“As a coffee leader deeply rooted in China, for China, Starbucks is committed to creating equal opportunities for everyone, as well as a unique third place experience that addresses a wide range of community needs. The new Signing Store is an example of how we are building inclusive environments and careers for our partners,” says Belinda Wong, chief executive officer of Starbucks China. “This store truly creates a sense of belonging for everyone and is a strong testament to our continued commitment to building a more diverse and inclusive working environment.”
The store employs Deaf partners and hard of hearing partners (employees) from across China, who are fluent in Chinese Sign Language. With their deep experience in working with the Deaf community, the team of partners will help to develop talent and create career opportunities at Starbucks and beyond, while raising awareness and understanding of Deaf experiences in the workplace.
Starbucks currently employs over 100 partners with disabilities in China. Starbucks has partnered with the Guangdong Deaf People Association to offer professional skills training, including sign language courses and internship opportunities.
“The Guangdong Deaf People Association is proud to partner with Starbucks to provide training and opportunities for the Deaf and hard of hearing community,” says Yitao Fan, vice chairman, China’s Deaf People Association & President of Guangdong Deaf People Association. “Thanks to Starbucks, Deaf partners are empowered to develop their careers in a vibrant and supportive environment, while the store provides a strong platform to drive societal awareness around Deaf Culture and the needs of the community.”
Sign language symbols are printed on umbrellas in front of the store, and there are indicators throughout the store. Deaf baristas will wear aprons with the word “Starbucks” embroidered in sign language. The store is equipped with a customized ordering system. Customers and partners will be able to communicate using notepads and two-way digital displays. For customers new to sign language, there will be a dedicated area for customers to write down their orders on an electronic board and wireless vibrating pagers will notify customers when their orders are ready.
To create an inclusive environment and encourage customers to learn more about the Deaf community, the store will also offer sign language lessons and coffee workshops in sign language.
In addition to the Signing Store in Guangzhou, Starbucks has a long history of making meaningful investments as an employer of choice in China. This year, China (along with Canada) became the first international market at Starbucks to achieve 100% gender pay equity, following a global announcement to close the gender pay gap for all partners in company-operated markets. The company also offers a critical illness insurance plan to the parents of Starbucks eligible full-time partners across mainland China – an initiative that addresses one of the market’s most pressing social concerns of elderly care. A monthly housing allowance subsidy is also available to all full-time baristas and shift supervisors who have been employed by Starbucks for more than six months.
In addition to China, Starbucks also opened a Signing Store in Malaysia in 2016 and Washington D.C. in 2018.
The Signing Store opened on 19 May, the National Day for Helping People with Disabilities in China.