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Starbucks opens first American sign language store in DC

Starbucks opened its first signing store in the United States in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. (WJLA/Caroline Patrickis)

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Starbucks opened its first sign language store in the United States on Tuesday morning.

The new store, located in Washington, D.C., is said to celebrate deaf culture.

It's conveniently located near Gallaudet University, a private school for the deaf and hard of hearing community.

Store manager Matthew Gilsbach says he's a Gallaudet graduate.

"This has been a dream of partners for deaf and hard of hearing to have this sort of store for a long time," he said.

The store has been renovated to create a unique experience for deaf customers, with artwork and merchandise made by deaf artists -- including locals who graduated from Gallaudet.

The first thing you see when you walk into the new store is a sign that reads, "This store is dedicated to people united by sign language and Deaf culture."

Gilsbach says the Starbucks has a "deaf space" design with low-glare surfaces that help communication through sign language. Baristas wear aprons with sign language that reads, "Starbucks." Hearing employees will wear pins that say, "I sign."

The company announced earlier this year that the new store would provide "employment opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing people as a part of the company's ongoing commitment to inclusion, accessibility and diversity."

Starbucks says it's hired 20 to 25 deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing partners from across the country to work at the signing store. Additionally, all partners will be fluent in American sign language.

"The National Association of the Deaf applauds Starbucks for opening a signing store that employs deaf and hard of hearing people," said Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf. "Starbucks has taken an innovative approach to incorporating deaf culture that will increase employment opportunities as well as accessibility for deaf and hard of hearing people, while at the same time educating and enlightening society."

Starbucks says its first deaf-friendly store opened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2016.

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