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Starbucks patrons can order with sign language

China Daily Global

9th February 2021

Starbucks patrons can order with sign language

By HE WEI in Shanghai

Ordering a cup of Starbucks coffee has just become easier for the hearing impaired in Shanghai.

The international coffeehouse chain has opened on outlet in the city that allows hearing-impaired customers to order using sign language or the written word.

The outlet, located in downtown Huangpu district, is staffed by 12 people who can communicate using the standardized sign language used in China. Five of these employees suffer from hearing loss. A smart voice-recognition system, which Starbucks said was developed by Microsoft, has been put in place to turn speech into text, allowing baristas with hearing difficulties to engage with customers.

The outlet also provides a reusable writing pad on which customers can write their orders.

"Every employee of the store is taking sign language courses," Li Ziyi, store manager, said. "We hope to make progress fast enough to better serve our customers.”

Li said the store is also looking to host regular coffee-making workshops featuring baristas with hearing impairments.

"The store opens up precious job opportunities for the physically challenged and epitomizes the city's unwavering care and support for the cohort," said Chen Dongyuan, an executive at Shanghai Disabled Persons' Federation.

The association has devised joint courses with Starbucks to train its employees with customized modules that include coffee brewing techniques and business management.

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