KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – Global coffee giant, Starbucks, has announced that it will be opening a café in Malaysia that is dedicated to employing baristas who are Deaf or hard of hearing.The new café will be open to all customers, not just the Deaf and hard of hearing community.
In what is likely a first for a major company in the food industry, through a partnership with The Society of Interpreters for the Deaf (SID), is an initiative to promote employment opportunities for Deaf in the country.
According to the United Nations, less than 1 percent of the Deaf population in Malaysia is currently employed. By contrast, in the US, estimates put Deaf employment rates at approximately 50-60%.
So How Will it Work?
When customers arrive at this particular Starbucks, they have the options of ordering by sign language or through a digital kiosk. The barista then keys in the order so that the customers are able to verify that their order is accurate.
“We are proud to be working with Starbucks to provide job opportunities for Deaf people. Through Starbucks, these Deaf partners are trained and empowered to move forward in their careers, which will give them a sense of pride and accomplishment in the long run.” —Alvin YM Wong, Malaysia SID Chairman
According to the company, the store will employ approximately ten Deaf individuals and three hearing. As part of the initiative, SID will provide Starbucks with two interpreters to translate during the hiring process, as well as during training. In addition the interpreters will teach sign language to the hearing employees.
“Since I joined Starbucks three years ago as a barista, my goal has been to become Starbucks Malaysia’s first Deaf store manager and after my recent promotion to shift manager, I’m well on way to achieving this dream,” said Mohammad Bin Ariffin, the store’s shift manager.
There are not yet any known plans for Starbucks to create similar stores in other countries, although if successful, the company could very well choose to adopt such a strategy across the globe.