Starbucks Debuts ‘Inclusive Spaces Framework’ Store in Washington, D.C.

Starbucks' Inclusive Spaces store in Washington, D.C.

Seeking to better serve the estimated one in four American adults with a disability, Starbucks will use its new Inclusive Spaces Framework for all newly opened and renovated company-owned stores in the U.S. The first store, in Washington, D.C., features optimized lighting and acoustics for better visual and audible communication and accessible equipment designs for store associates.

“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,” said Katie Young, SVP of Store Operations at Starbucks 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.”

Key elements of these new stores will include:

  • Portable POS for improved ease of use with customers as well as an adjustable angle stand for better visibility, an intuitive and customizable layout, voice assist and screen magnification options, images of menu items to support language diversity and visual order confirmations to help ensure order accuracy;
  • Customer order status boards providing visual updates on where orders are in the process and when they’re ready to be picked up;
  • Power-operated doors: Wherever possible, store entrance doors will include a longer vertical push button that’s easier to activate from more heights and angles;
  • Optimized acoustics and lighting: Starbucks will use materials to reduce unwanted background noise and reverberation that can interfere with assistive devices like hearing aids and lighting that minimizes glare, shadow patterns and backlighting that can impede visual communication;
  • Inclusive equipment design, including the Starbucks Clover Vertica brewer that features a larger dial and button that protrude for more accessible reach and visual and haptic (touch) confirmation, including a light to notify baristas when brewing is complete;
  • Lower counters with overhangs to accommodate wheelchair access and support better communication at food and beverages pickup; and
  • Store designs that support a continuous unobstructed pedestrian path, including open sightlines and barrier-free pathways with more accessible wayfinding to accommodate varying heights, distances and iconography.

Creating Inclusive Store Environments

Starbucks has been moving toward greater inclusivity for several years, including the formation of a Disability Advocacy Partner Network for Starbucks employees that’s been in place since 2016; eight Signing Stores, joining the first store that opened in Washington, D.C. in 2018, which features a mural painted by a deaf artist; and free access to the Aira app, which is designed to help blind and low vision customers navigate stores and the ordering process.


“Starbucks’ opening of their new store built with inclusive design elements is a big moment as we try to make retail spaces more accessible and inclusive,” said Tony Coelho, a former U.S. congressman and primary author and sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in a statement. “We have to go beyond just what is required to put accessibility and inclusion first to ensure all people feel like they belong in community spaces.”

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