Starbucks China is to open its first store with sign language capability in Beijing on Friday, and its second in the country, offering more possibilities to the deaf and hard of hearing community.
Chen Zizhong, a barista with hearing loss wearing a Starbucks signature green apron, talked about his new job with pride. “My previous job didn’t involve much engagement with other colleagues. Here at Starbucks, I am learning about coffee and working with people who share the same passion.”
Chen is among seven employees with hearing loss working at this store. Most of them are in their 20s. Diversity and inclusiveness are key words here. Half of the employees at the Xitieying store at Wanda Plaza are people with hearing loss.
Store manager Chen Fangqi, a veteran of 12-years at Starbucks, said the recent experience in working with hearing-impaired colleagues has taught her perspectives and appreciation for the efforts and persistence carried out by her new colleagues.
“Every time I introduced new skills or knowledge at work, they would keep on writing many times. Later I learned that only by writing and drawing repeatedly would help them memorize the points by heart, as they are not able to enhance memories through hearing or speaking capacities like many people do,” she said.
The store’s design has taken special needs into consideration with sign language symbols written next to the store’s mermaid logo. All baristas will wear aprons with the word “Starbucks” embroidered in sign language.
An “easy-ordering” system will facilitate customers and employees to communicate using notepads and two-way digital displays.
Wu Wenyan, head of the Beijing Disabled Persons’ Federation, said the launch of the Starbucks store with sign language capacity has played an exemplified role in allowing the public to care and understand more about the hearing-impaired communities. The store also will help advocate for equality and inclusiveness to encourage the hearing-impaired community to live more colorful and dignified lives, Wu said.
The store has scheduled events to organize sign language courses and coffee classes. Jointly working with the Beijing Disabled Persons’ Federation, Starbucks China will offer career guidance and roll out support for hearing impaired communities to broaden their opportunities in job searches.
At present, Starbucks China has more than 120 employees with hearing challenges. The first store with sign language capacity opened in Guangzhou last year.