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Mashable reports that Starbucks will open a store in Washington, DC, this October that will “be run in American Sign Language (ASL).”

The store, located near Gallaudet University, which caters to deaf and hard of hearing students, “will hire roughly two dozen deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing employees, all of whom will be proficient in ASL,” and will “include ‘DeafSpace’ design modifications and service practices that create the best possible experience for deaf and hard of hearing customers, including low-glare reflective surfaces and clear sight lines for open communication. In general, deaf-accessible design focuses on architectural elements in five categories: acoustics, sensory reach, space and proximity, mobility and proximity, and light and color.”

A similar store opened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, two years ago.

"This is a historic moment in Starbucks ongoing journey to connect with the deaf and hard of hearing community, hire and engage deaf and hard of hearing partners, and continue to find ways to be more inclusive, accessible and welcoming to all," says Rossann Williams, Starbucks executive vice president of U.S. retail.
KC's View:
This isn’t just about serving the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. It also is about making a broader statement to consumers about how Starbucks perceives itself, and the kind of company it wants to be.

I think that an increasing number of consumers are responding to these kinds of entreaties. There’s a story in the today about how in the UK, Morrisons is designating one hour each week as a “quieter hour” that is “aimed at helping people with autism have a better shopping experience by easing sensory overload.” The move has been “welcomed by the National Autistic Society, which says that even small changes can make a big difference in the lives of people with autism and their families.”

But again, that’s not just about the 700,000 people estimated to be on the autism spectrum in the U.K. It is about making a statement.