We now have an example of retail establishments that cater to speakers of other languages.
Coffee shops are beginning to train personnel to serve members of the deaf community. They learn sign language so that customers who are deaf can have the same experience as customers who hear. Among these, Starbucks has received a lot of recognition. They are not the only one, though.
Can we use this step forward to introduce more languages? Since we know that these baristas can learn sign language, they can clearly learn other languages, like Spanish or Chinese or Somali, so that speakers of those languages can have a great experience in their stores.
Accommodating signers works the same way as adjusting to speakers of any other language. If accommodating signers becomes part of corporate strategy, then training the employees follows. What I see happening with these stores could be easily adopted for any language.
Starbucks does not have a monopoly on accommodating the deaf in their coffee shop, as the DIB Coffees of Hawaii in Malaysia speaks to customers in sign language. (I don’t know which sign language this interview is carried out in.) This compassionate cafe specializes in employing people who do not hear (DIB=Deaf in Business) to serve the deaf community, but they cater to all sorts of people with different abilities.
Starbucks followed suit when they opened up a shop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, catering to deaf employees and customers. In this video you can see all the employees of the store learning sign language. (It’s probably Malaysian Sign Language, which is closely related to American Sign Language.) Malaysia is a country of so many languages, it’s great to see them specialize in this one.
Starbucks Malaysia even has YouTube videos to teach you how to sign your favorite drink. They also depict greetings and other words. I want to know how to say these words in more languages! Starbucks-sponsored language videos!
Such a wonderful gesture! But if she can do it, who couldn’t? And if for ASL, why not another language?
They would evidently need bilingual staff to operate this video unit. If they are specially targeting bilinguals for employment, I’d like to know what other shops look for multilingual employees to communicate with various members of the community.
Still work to be done
Starbucks faced a lawsuit, nevertheless, by an employee who is deaf, who was fired after she had asked for seven years for an interpreter to help perform job tasks. (This requirement by employers is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.)
At a Starbucks in NYC, baristas called police to eject a group of customers who were deaf. Police refused to act on the baristas’ request, instead reprimanding the baristas who called it in.
We still have a long way to go to loving speakers of other languages. These companies are going a long way to show that we can accommodate with only a little effort, speakers of sign language. Let’s use the same techniques for serving others in their language.