At Starbucks, connections over coffee happen every day in countries around the world through many different languages. Often the conversations between baristas and customers are in American Sign Language (ASL).
A recent exchange between a Starbucks partner (employee) and a Deaf customer in Virginia drew international media attention. The customer posted a photo of the message his barista wrote: “I’ve been learning ASL just so you can have the same experience as everyone else.” This follows another popular story a few months ago when a sign language exchange between a Starbucks barista and her customer inspired others.
We asked Starbucks Deaf partners Adam Novsam and Pratibha Quint to share a few coffee-related ASL words.
Connecting with the Deaf Community, One Cup at a Time
Coffee has a language all its own.
During a coffee tasting, participants delve deep into the world of coffees by comparing aroma, acidity, body, flavor and growing regions.
In Burlington, Vermont, barista Kevin Richmond set up a series of socials that have brought together Deaf and hearing customers over coffee. Each month, between 40 and 80 customers participate in the coffee socials using ASL. The events rotate between four Starbucks stores in the area.
“I felt it was so important to gather people and be social,” said Richmond, who is Deaf. “I believe Starbucks is a great place to do that.”
The events offer a place for people in the Deaf community to gather, and helps ASL students from the nearby University of Vermont program improve their signing skills and experience Deaf culture. It also helps Starbucks partners learn how to communicate with customers using sign language.
“Our coffee socials show people that Starbucks values the diversity of its customers and partners,” he said. “I hope all customers feel welcome and learn our beautiful language and culture.”
The company presented Richmond with the Spirit of Starbucks Award, which recognizes partners who make exceptional contributions in their stores and communities while embracing Starbucks Mission and Values.