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Starbucks is focusing on accessibility for blind, low-vision customers at all U.S. stores

Starbucks coffeeshop building

Starbucks coffeeshop now offers all of its customers at its stores free access to Aira, a smartphone app that connects blind and low-vision people with visual interpreters, as part of the coffee giant’s push for more inclusive retail.  The app, which is free to download, offers various monthly subscription plans based on the number of minutes needed. Starbucks is picking up the cost of service at its stores for the app’s users.

The app lets customers connect with remotely-located Aira agents who provide information on a store’s layout, items on the menu boards and in the display cases, and numbers of people in the vicinity.  The app also informs users on how far away other people are from the person using the app, an important thing to know during these days of social distancing.

Starbucks is using its Tryer Center, an innovation lab where employees usually test beverages and prototypes and build new equipment, to focus on accessibility. The Accessibility Office and the Tryer Center have worked on inclusive design features for their products and stores.  The company’s next roll out will be distribution of new large-print and Braille menus at all of its U.S. and Canada stores starting in the summer.  These menus are being created in a partnership with the National Braille Press. 

Starbucks tested Aira across seven U.S. cities, including at its signing store location in Washington D.C.where employees trained in sign language provide an inclusive space for the Deaf and hard of hearing community. Starbucks operates nine signing stores worldwide.