The Sun (Malaysia)
More than just coffee
> The scoop on Starbucks Malaysia’s first ‘signing store’
store is run by a team of 13 deaf baristas, including Muhammad Aizad Ariffin, who was recently promoted to become Starbucks’ first deaf shift manager, along with Evonne Lo who is the store manager and a regular, hearing individual.
While what Starbucks did for the deaf community is phenomenal, providing an exciting career for deaf individuals, it also presented a chance for the deaf to “engage” with the coffee culture community and become part of modern society.
After much contemplation, study and careful thought, the outlet at BV2 made “the cut” having met specific traits and characteristics in terms of location and customer disposition, which include: a safe working environment for its deaf partners – being located within a mall where operating hours are shorter; strategic location – easily accessible, serviced by public transportation; and familiar surroundings – especially with the YMCA Deaf Club located nearby in Brickfields as well as the BV2 store serving as a regular joint for the deaf community to meet at.
HARD WORK PAYS
From the interviews to the threemonth training of deaf baristas, which included classroom and onthe-job training, as well as the groundwork of getting the store manager competent in dealing with her team of deaf individuals – all the above could not have been possible without the collaboration of the Society of Interpreters for the Deaf Selangor and Federal Territory (S.I.D.) and Community Service Centre for the Deaf (CSCD).
Indeed, the amount of planning and the work behind the opening of Starbucks’ first signing store was monumental, but looking at the outcome now, it was all worthwhile.
“It wasn’t easy. To immerse and understand deaf culture is challenging. We needed to provide supportive tools that would help the deaf, besides teaching our hearing partners to be more sensitive towards the feelings of our deaf partners (often not as adept in expressing how they feel),” informs Salleh. Together, Starbucks Malaysia, CSCD and S.I.D. laboured hard and long hours to develop a training programme that catered to training deaf partners to be baristaready.
In November 2016, the Starbucks Outreach Community Programme was launched. Its aim was to enhance the livelihood of the deaf community by developing their soft skills to help prepare them for employment through workshops and training. The programme also caters to enrich the lives of hearing customers by enabling them to communicate and understand the deaf through sign language classes.
A MIGHTY CHALLENGE
Response from the public has been encouraging, looking at the growing number of programme participants, many showing keen interest in taking the programme forward to their places of work, social circles, even their children’s schools and fellowship centres.
“Many are impressed with our initiative. The feedback from our customers, local and foreign, have been encouraging. We have received so many compliments and warm messages from our customers and many of them have taken the initiative to interact with our deaf partners – learning how to sign their name etc,” shared Lo, already three years with the company.
“I really appreciate the opportunity given me by Starbucks, to manage the store. I had to attend Sign Language classes for 10 weeks prior to taking up the position. I saw it as a challenge, for myself and also for me to move out of my comfort zone. It was a challenge I chose to take up and a whole new experience of which I am glad I did. Now I am able to sign and also better understand the deaf,” shared Lo, thankful she has Aizad to help. “Initially, it was difficult, especially when I had to do briefings with my deaf store partners. It took time for me to make sure they understood what I was trying to say. But it got easier, and I have Aizad,” she said.
GIVING HOPE, PROVIDING OPPORTUNITIES
At Starbucks, deaf partners are treated like any other partners. “They are able to commit to any