Starbucks’ Commitment to Higher Accessibility Standards Challenges Other National Corporations to Match Them

Published April 14, 2022

Starbucks has announced a commitment to higher standards for accessibility efforts in the form of digital and physical improvements that would streamline ordering and interactions for customers with disabilities.

Physical accessibility efforts announced by Starbucks include store designs that will make locations more easily navigable by people with disabilities and configurations that will make customer interactions more accessible for all.

Regarding technological improvements, the coffee giant announced live speech-to-text technology that would streamline communication processes between baristas and customers with auditory issues. Additionally, a digital board that announces when an order is ready is in the works to ensure all customers are aware of their order status even if they cannot rely on auditory cues.

Part of the company’s push for inclusivity is a commitment to opening 1,000 more of what it calls “community stores,” locations added to developing and underserved communities meant to serve as more than just coffee shops. By partnering with non-profits and local, diverse contractors, these stores would bring economic opportunities to urban and rural communities. 

About 150 of these community stores exist already across the globe, and Starbucks hopes to fulfill its accessibility vision of creating 1,000 more by 2030.

Regarding effective communication, the company began offering free Aira in the past year. This service connects people with visual impairments to trained visual interpreters who provide access to visual information about the customer’s surroundings through a smartphone app. 

Additionally, Starbucks also offers large-print and Braille menus in all United States and Canada stores. And across the globe, Starbucks operates 11 “signing stores” that provide sign language services for customers with auditory issues.

“We applaud Starbucks commitment to designing more accessible in-store and digital experiences that create a true sense of belonging for everyone,” says Jill Houghton, President, and CEO, Disability:IN. "This inclusive design methodology helps level the playing field by recognizing disability is part of the human condition and is a natural part of anyone’s identity. We know that by designing a better experience for people with disabilities, you are also designing a better experience for all.”

Keeping up with Starbucks

As the nation’s top coffee chain, Starbucks is in the unique position of setting an example for other American corporations to follow. Where a big name like Starbucks goes, other big food service names are sure to follow, if only to keep up with the services their competitors provide.

Ideally, Starbucks will continue to set higher standards regarding inclusivity and accessibility. Hopefully, the rest of corporate America will be motivated to meet those standards or even surpass them.

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