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Starbucks on Inclusion of Deaf Community

As signed by Starbucks partner, Ryan Schlecht

Recent allegations have surfaced in the media regarding the treatment of some Deaf customers in two of our New York City stores. On behalf of the over 200,000 partners (employees), we want to take the opportunity to be clear that discrimination of any kind is not tolerated at Starbucks. We take these allegations very seriously, and believe they are neither consistent with our values nor our track record of engaging the Deaf community both as partners and as customers.

We want Starbucks to be a place where Deaf people want to work and visit. We strive to provide a Starbucks Experience that is culturally sensitive and inclusive of Deaf etiquette. We are proud of our continued growth in recruiting and employing members of the Deaf community at our headquarters in Seattle, as well as in our stores in the U.S. and across the globe. We are also grateful for the positive feedback we continue to receive from the Deaf community on our accessibility in stores, as well as the opportunity to support American Sign Language interpreted store events.

At Starbucks, inclusion and cultural sensitivity are core to our leadership training and foundational to the Starbucks Experience. We promote equality, inclusion and accessibility, including offering a number of ways we directly support our Deaf partners and customers.

  • We provide training, including American Sign Language as well as a “Creating a Deaf Friendly Environment” course, to help engage our partners in delivering an accessible environment for all.
  • We also provide communications equipment and resources to our Deaf partners for interpreting services such as video relay interpreting services, real time captioning, flashing strobe light signalers for emergency evacuation notice, and video captioning.
  • Our Starbucks Access Alliance also helps promote equal opportunity and accessibility for partners and customers.
  • Starbucks is a business with humanity at its soul and communities in which we have the opportunity to serve are the heart of our business.

    More information on inclusion and accessibility from Cliff Burrows, Starbucks group president, Americas, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), and Teavana, can be found on our website here. We also welcome you to view a few of our Deaf partners’ stories as told here, here, and here.

comments (18)

Comment FAQ

    • 7/16/2013 6:41 AM

    I am pleased to see this post regarding Deaf inclusion and pride at Starbucks HQ. I do believe that this incident at Astor Place is just that, an incident. I believe it is the ignorance and rudeness of the specific employees at that location that has tainted your reputation and that THEY should be held responsible for their actions. THEY should publicly apologize. THEY should be educated about various cultures and customer service. Thank you for doing something Starbucks!

    • 7/16/2013 9:15 AM

    Thank you for posting the video and a copy of transcription. I'm not worried about Starbucks as whole. I have visited Headquarters and met Deaf employees there. I was very impressed and proud of that.

    I agree with the first commenter above. THEY (specific employees at that location) must be responsible for their action. That's it.



    • 7/16/2013 2:17 PM

    Your comment field is too short so I have to just leave some points. I'm partially deaf and am unable to use a phone. I've been trying to get an underpowered wifi fixed in one of your locations for over 3 years now. Latest ticket is 793774-9284874. I have identified myself as being deaf multiple times. Your company won't resolve the issue over email and direct me to use the telephone. Sounds silly but it's very insulting and rude. Been escalated multiple times with no resolution.

      • 7/16/2013 2:51 PM

      In reply to:

      To sum up though, I'm sorry that this had to happen to your company but doesn't it really take a national news story for your company to take notice when you have such a problem or when there's such an incident?

      I've attempted to escalated the ticket once again. I do hope that you don't blow off the complaint like you've done previously and you'll educate all of your employees when they violate your company's policies. Not just the ones that show up in national news.

        • 7/24/2013 9:26 AM

        In reply to:

        Over a week later and still no resolution. Not even a response.

        I guess Starbucks really is bigoted against deaf folks.

        • Sherylynne
        • 7/25/2013 9:35 AM

        In reply to:

        I have been a long time customer of Starbucks. Not often, but when I had an issue , it has been my experience that it is handled professionally and quickly. Granted, none have had to do with the deaf community. However, regardless of the nature of the complaint, I assure you they are not bigoted. When you e-mail customer service (or text, whatever method) request the e-mail address for Howard Schultz and/or the Executive offices .

        • 8/1/2013 7:29 AM

        In reply to: Sherylynne

        Sherylynne, I assure you that I have done that multiple times. The ticket remains at first level support and no escalation is done. And I'm sorry you don't understand bigotry but directing me and others who are deaf and/or unable to use a telephone and having them tell us that they are unable to resolve our issues via email is bigotry.

        I'm sorry if you don't understand that.

    • 7/16/2013 2:19 PM

    I think that the employees who proved disrespectful should at the least be directed to a mandatory tolerance and Deaf education course, if not fired.
    I'm pleased with how I and others have been treated at the 4th and South store in Philadelphia, but one incident of discrimination is one too many. There is a Deaf barista at the Sbucks, but the employees don't know any ASL. Do you offer basic ASL courses? It makes a huge difference when employees are willing to try communicating.

    • 7/17/2013 7:54 AM

    I work in rehab at a hospital in Winter Park, FL. We have a staff of 5 that bring 5 patients in wheelchairs to starbucks almost weekly throughout the year. We take up a lot of room. Our patients take longer to order than other patients. We our considerate to the other patrons. The Starbucks staff and patrons are so nice to us every time we go. Danielle is exceptional. Starbucks is an important part of our community reintegration program. New Starbucks staff treat us the same way.

    • Jamesreale
    • 7/23/2013 7:04 AM

    Hi SB
    Happen at farmingdale NY 11735.
    5am morning I went there and somehow I going in bathroom and saw not enough toilet then I call a woman to get new toilet. But she saw it and not need new toilet and I need number 2 and she go back work I'm stuck. I know another manager name is Kelly Ann Drummond is NOT responsible for put new toilet. I told her that every nights before close MUST put all new toilet and paper. Also Kelly is 2 face on me all the time. She didn't communication me!

    • infael
    • 7/26/2013 12:36 PM

    My local Starbucks baristas have been friendly to me, for the most part. A shout out to the baristas at the Falcon, CO Starbucks!

    • MillanCA07
    • 7/26/2013 2:59 PM

    I am a Partner and I was disgusted to hear about these allegations. I have been taking ASL and I am more than excited to learn more so I CAN communicate with everyone and anyone.

    • dkendr
    • 7/31/2013 6:40 AM

    HUH!!!? WHAT???!?!??!?!

    • xo_sbx
    • 8/7/2013 9:39 AM

    I believe along with what was posted towards the top that this is the fault of a certain employee or employees. This has nothing to do with starbucks as a whole. Starbucks provides equal oppertunity to all and I believe they are very serious about that.

    • williamcerf
    • 9/7/2013 10:44 AM

    It would also be great if Starbuck could install loop technology so that deaf customers can hear through the T-Coil in their hearing aids.

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