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Starbucks opens ‘inclusive’ store staffed by people with disabilities

Staff of the new Starbucks inclusive store in South Korea.

Starbucks South Korea has opened its first “inclusive-design” focused store, in partnership with disability communities.

Located at Seoul National University Dental Hospital, the store concept aims to expand career opportunities for Starbucks partners (staff) with disabilities and create a community for them and customers alike. People without disabilities are employed there too.

“Opening a store focused on inclusive design marks an important moment for Starbucks in South Korea and around the world,” said David Song, CEO of Starbucks Coffee Korea.

“Through our partnerships with organisations like the Korea Employment Promotion Agency for the Disabled (KEPAD), we hope to lead the way for other business in South Korea to create an inclusive environment for all.”

The partnership with KEPAD offers consultation on store design and customised training and development for partners, including basic expressions in Korean Sign Language.

The store features an artwork illustrating the word ‘together’ in English, mounted on a background of up-cycled Starbucks coffee grounds. The store is also equipped with digital tablets to enable communication with customers. Additional space for wheelchair access is available. 

Other features of the store include contactless speech-to-text voice recognition through a tablet at the register, a Braille menu, and digital signage which lets customers track the progress of their order.

“The new store represents our enduring commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in every market we serve,” said Sara Trilling, president at Starbucks Asia Pacific. “We understand we are still early in our journey, and will continue to learn and expand our design principles. 

“With feedback from partners, customers and the community, we are constantly reimagining how we build stores to create a Third Place environment that nurtures and inspires all people.”

Starbucks has worked with the KEPAD since 2012 to recruit its partners and has held an annual Barista Championships for partners with disabilities since 2015. The company has also teamed with the Korea Disabled People’s Development Institute to provide additional training and expand career opportunities for people with disabilities across the country since 2018.

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