Starbucks Barista Learns Sign Language for Deaf Customer, Gives Him Sweet Note
One barista’s simple gesture helped a deaf customer feel more understood.
Ibby Piracha, a deaf man who’s a frequent customer at a Starbucks in Leesburg, Virginia, got a surprise when he stopped in on Friday, Feb. 19, according to a post on his Facebook page. Usually, Piracha writes down his order on the Notes app on his phone and then shows it to the cashier. This time, before he could do that, the barista signed to him in American Sign Language (ASL) asking for his drink order. Later, she passed him a note she’d written explaining that she had been learning ASL to better assist customers like him who may be hard of hearing. The note said, “I’ve been learning ASL so you can have the same experience as everyone else.”
His Facebook post read:
Oh, I gotta love this place. The Starbucks woman cashier wrote it to me and she knew I am deaf. I am surprised she’s learning sign language because I attend Starbucks three times a week. She asked me, ‘What you want drink?’ in sign language. I am so blessed with her. I think she realized Leesburg, Virginia, has deaf people. Please share this post with everyone. I want hearing people [to] understand about [the] hearing community supporting the deaf community.
“She was saying she looked on YouTube because she had a lot of customers that came in using text,” Piracha told ABC News. “I was very surprised she was willing to learn and it shows she respects deaf people, she’s an inspiration.”
The manager of the Starbucks confirmed Piracha’s account of the interaction but wouldn’t name the employee. A Starbucks spokeswoman said the company was proud of her actions.
Laura Friedman, Communications Manager for the Hearing Health Foundation, told The Mighty these kinds of incidents are heartening.
“Communication is a key part of customer service,” Friedman said in an email. “It’s so encouraging to read this story of a cashier making efforts to bridge a communication barrier with her deaf customers.”
This isn’t the first time Starbucks has made an effort to include people from the deaf community. In November, a drive-through Starbucks in St. Augustine, Florida, made headlines for its video monitor that allows deaf customers to order in sign language.
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