- Starbucks began offering customers with vision impairments on Monday free access to Aira, a technology service that connects diners with remote agents via smartphone in order to describe the visual surroundings, according to a Starbucks post. The coffee chain first tested the technology in seven U.S. cities earlier this year.
- Beginning this summer, Starbucks will offer large print and Braille menus, developed in partnership with the National Braille Press, at all of its U.S. and Canada locations.
- These moves are part of Starbucks’ ongoing initiative to enhance accessibility at its stores and uphold its commitment to inclusion, diversity and equity. In 2018, it opened its first U.S. Signing Store and now offers nine locations globally where employees are proficient in American Sign Language.
While every business must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Starbucks is adding services that go beyond the basic requirements. This will help the chain reach more customers — roughly 12 million people in the U.S. aged 40 years and over have impaired vision, including 1 million people who are blind.
In 2020, Starbucks' Accessibility Office and its innovation lab, Tryer Center, conducted research and consulted with design experts, Starbucks employees, the disability community and organizations like the World Institute on Disability. Following analysis of each aspect of the Starbucks experience, the team developed ways to improve the physical and digital environment for employees and patrons. That included new store design standards and updating its app and its website to enhance accessibility.
The company has also been testing ways to improve accessibility for its staff members with disabilities, including providing clear face masks for staff with hearing impairments at its retail, non-retail, distribution and roasting plants. The company is also looking into altering its store equipment, such as a coffee brewer that has large buttons and haptic and visual feedback functionality, as well as cold cups with tactile bumps and high contrast lines to help with measuring.
In addition to accessibility, Starbucks is focusing on inclusion, equity and diversity. In 2020, it set annual goals to improve representation of Black, indigenous and people of color at all corporate levels and in-store and manufacturing roles, and tied executive bonuses to reaching these metrics. The company also announced it reached gender and race pay equity in 2018.