Starbucks Corporation

Starbucks, the world largest coffeehouse chain is innovating in the retail sector. Direct Access were part of a consortium that included Starbucks’ internal team, retail partners, individuals with disabilities, and other external design experts, contributing to the development of Starbucks’ Inclusive Design Framework, reflecting the coffee chain’s commitment to providing accessibility and inclusion.

Developed as a result of an ongoing store redesign project, The Inclusive Design Framework – which will guide new store constructions and renovations going forward, was developed over several months in which Direct Access, Starbucks employees, and other organizations worked together to audit every aspect of the Starbucks experience from the point of view of company partners, scrutinizing the accessibility of Starbucks’ equipment, machinery, counters, cash registers, storage facilities, garbage disposal, store entry and exit points, and other key aspects.

A general view of the warmly lit interior of a new accessible Starbucks store in Washington as seen from front of house. To the left of the image is a counter, to the right is some seating. Central to the image is a mural designed by a deaf artist, showing an abstract, surreal depiction of a man holding a coffee cup alongside a cat, a child holding his mother's hand and a balloon in the other, an older gentleman with a walking stick, a tall woman and a short man. A bird flies over all the characters.

Once accessibility concerns were identified, the Consortium collaborated in the development of specific design solutions to address each concern raised. The solutions, which have since integrated into the company’s wider Inclusive Design Framework, are expected to be rolled out across Starbucks’ physical and digital spaces across the United States, reflecting Starbucks’ core values of courage and belonging on the side of both customers and store partners.

A photograph of the ceiling in the new inclusive Starbucks store in Washington. A warm orange glow permeates from the lights on the black ceiling.

Some of the newly integrated solutions include;

  • Optimized Acoustics and Lighting; including multiple dimmers and power screens on the exterior windows – reducing daytime glare and shadows that might interfere with visual communication. Acoustic dampening baffles in the ceiling help reduce noise and reverberations, including for people who use assisted listening devices, such as hearing aids.
  • Next-generation point-of-sale (POS) systems with voice recognition that captures what the customer is saying, screen magnification, images of menu items to support language diversity, and visual confirmation of orders. As well as updated handoff plane features an overhanging shelf and almost three feet of clearance underneath, providing lots of extra room for customers to approach with wheelchairs, power chairs, strollers, and service dogs.  
  • Starbucks’ new bean-to-cup brewer, the Clover Vertica™, combining advanced engineering with accessibility features like a larger dial, visual and haptic confirmation, and a light to notify partners when brewing is complete.

The first store built using the Inclusive Design Framework opened on Feb. 16, in Washington, D.C.’s Union Market neighborhood and is the store from which this Case Study’s photographs originate.

Further details on what the new store has to offer can be viewed here on the Starbucks Stories and News website.

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