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Starbucks' new accessible designs will eventually roll out systemwide.

Starbucks is updating its cafes to be more accessible with new inclusive designs

Restaurant design changes include a point of sales system that’s accessible for the visually impaired, power-operated doors, and wider pedestrian paths

Starbucks announced Friday the rollout of a new inclusive café layout, designed with accessibility in mind. The new Inclusive Spaces Framework, which creates more accessible spaces for both employees and customers with visual and audible impairment, wheelchair users, and more, is part of the company’s updated commitment to inclusivity.

Eventually, all Starbucks stores will be either built or renovated to incorporate this framework. Additionally, a Starbucks representative confirmed that the framework design will be open sourced and continuously developed for use across the retail industry.

The first store built within this framework opened on Feb. 16 in Washington, D.C. at Union Market, and is staffed by both signing employees and employees that use their voices. The new features inside the store include an updated point of sales system with an adjustable angle that can be seen at multiple levels and heights, voice assist, screen magnification, menu item images and visual order confirmation.

Other features include customer order status boards that show customers when their order is ready to pick up, power-operated doors that are opened with a long vertical button that can be reached by multiple heights, and improved acoustics and adjustable lighting that reduce glare, shadows, and background noise, in order to reduce interference with hearing aids and/or visual communication. More design elements include wider pedestrian paths and lower countertops to make the store experience easier for wheelchair users, as well as more accessible equipment for baristas behind the counter and free access to the Aira app, which provides real-time interpretation for blind and low-vision customers.

The Washington, D.C. store includes unique design features like a mural designed by a deaf artist, rounded edges, as well as large communal spaces.

“At Starbucks, we have challenged ourselves to imagine what’s possible when we take a closer look at the many ways our partners and customers interact with us and experience our stores every day,” Katie Young, senior vice president of store operations said in a statement. “Building and scaling an Inclusive Store Framework is central to our mission of connection and will lead to greater access for all.” 

This is not the first time Starbucks has made headlines for its store improvements around inclusivity. In 2018, the company opened its first signing store for deaf and hearing-impaired customers and employees, which is now one of 23 similar stores globally. In 2021, the company began offering large print and braille menus to all stores across the U.S. and Canada, and in 2022, the company unveiled a sneak peek at the accessible store designs that have officially been unveiled this week.

This is not the only major company announcement Starbucks made this week. During the Seattle-based coffee chain’s last earnings call in January, Starbucks announced its newest Starbucks Reward Together partnership. The first one was with Delta, and the second one is with Bank of America. Now new details have emerged: Starting Feb. 16, customers will earn 2% cash back on top of existing card benefits and 1 Star per $2 spent at Starbucks if they link a Bank of America credit or debit card account with their Starbucks account.

“This partnership is the latest example of how we are continuing to invest in our most loyal customers to deepen engagement and connection by offering benefits and experiences that can’t be found anywhere else,” Ryan Butz, vice president of loyalty strategy and marketing at Starbucks, said in a statement.

Contact Joanna at [email protected]

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