For members of the deaf community, ordering food or drinks at a drive-thru can be a frustrating, or even impossible, experience. But as one deaf woman recently discovered, Starbucks is trying to make this feature accessible for customers with disabilities — with the help of a little technology.
On Tuesday, 28-year-old Rebecca King of St. Augustine, Florida, uploaded a video to Facebook which reveals what happened during her visit to a local Starbucks drive-thru.
The video shows King driving up to the ordering kiosk. A woman’s voice emits from the intercom.
“Hi, welcome to Starbucks,” the woman says. “What can we get started for you today?”
King does not respond and waits in her seat. A few moments later, a Starbucks barista appears on a monitor.
King begins to communicate with the woman using sign language, and the barista signs right back.
“Starbucks! This is what I’m talking about!” King wrote in her Facebook post, which has been watched more than 4.9 million times to date. “Share it away! We can change the world!”
According to Action News Jax, the barista in the video is a woman named Katie Wyble, a 22-year-old college student who has had a “passion for sign language since I first saw a teacher use it when I was in preschool.”
Wyble, who began studying American Sign Language in high school, says she’s thrilled that King’s video has been shared so widely on social media.
“I think more people need to know about what we’re doing because it moves customer service to a whole new level,” Wyble told Action News Jax. “I hope it helps make more people aware of what they can to do serve others in their communities.”
King told First Coast News that she’d originally encountered the two-way video feature at Starbucks on Monday, when Wyble unexpectedly popped up on the screen and began signing with her. King said she was so surprised and thrilled by the experience, she returned the very next day so she could document it on camera.
“It is a big deal to [the] deaf community that Starbucks has one now,” King told the news outlet of the video feature. “We all want to have that at every drive thru in the world.”
St. Augustine is home to a large deaf community as The Florida School for the Deaf and Blind is located in the city.
It’s unclear how many Starbucks drive-thru kiosks currently have this two-way video feature installed. The company has yet to respond to The Huffington Post’s requests for comment.
In 2010, Culver’s, a fast food chain that operates mainly in the Midwest, made headlines when it reportedly became the first fast food company to install OrderAssist, an accessibility system for deaf customers, at some of its drive-thrus.
More recently, Subway fitted touch-screen ordering kiosks at a handful of outlets. Though the company said last year that the technology would make drive-thru ordering “faster and more accurate,” such a system would also be helpful to deaf customers.
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