How Starbucks Responded to My Problem With Menu Accessibility


One summer while I worked at a marketing research firm in the mall in my hometown, the biggest thing to hit our area since sliced bread moved onto the second floor near the food court.

Starbucks, the ultimate in fancy coffee goodness, became a central hub for the younger crowd. Frappes, fancy pastries and smoothies galore. And I wanted to partake in it.

My first Starbucks experience was one that became all the norm when it comes to trying a new place. Let a few ahead of me in line and pick the one thing that sounds good. As someone who is legally blind, the wall plaque menu board is not my friend.

“I’ll have a caramel macchiato,” said the girl ahead of me.

“I’ll have the same,” I would reply when it was my turn.

Good thing I love caramel.

But caramel gets boring after awhile, and my “three people ahead” never yielded the variety I wanted. I’m the kind of girl who doesn’t like to advocate for myself because people will treat me like I’m a baby. I’ve had it happen before and I hated the thought of dealing with it again.

One day while on a break from a long day of field studies, I decided it would be the day to try something new.

I go up to the barista and asked what kind of drinks they had. I received an answer I wasn’t expecting.

“We got a menu right up there.”

I then asked if she had a menu that wasn’t up too high so I could read it. She said no.

“The menu is up there. Can’t you read it?”

I turned about 50 shades of red, embarrassed and ashamed. I made a joke about a new prescription on my glasses that didn’t take and went with my go-to drink, a caramel macchiato.

A few weeks later, that visit played on repeat in my brain. Long before smartphone apps were mainstream, I had no other options when it came to ordering a drink.

I wrote a letter to Starbucks via its corporate website explaining my problems and suggesting a change. Thankfully, the response was amazing and quick. Within a few hours, they sent me an email back and a phone call. They promised better training to that location, and I was sent a calorie menu, which should’ve been offered to me as an alternative ordering method in the first place. I also received $50 in gift cards so I can experiment with the variety that up until that point that I never had before.

A few weeks later, I noticed my experiences at Starbucks were so much better. The baristas became more patient, the options were laid out better, and the drinks were awesome… and still are to this day.

Nowadays, with technology and access to the Internet at the drop of a hat, my foodie travels have gotten better for the most part. I still get the stares and the questions regarding my ability to read, but not as much as I used to.

And yes, I still get a caramel macchiato once in awhile, but the possibilities are endless and I couldn’t be more thankful for the changes made in that Starbucks back home — and elsewhere.

Follow this journey on Legally Blind Bagged.

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