Starbucks is doubling down on its commitment to inclusivity with the launch of the Inclusive Spaces Framework.

This innovative design guideline outlines a series of accessibility features and accommodations aimed at enhancing the in-store experience for all customers and employees, regardless of their physical abilities.

The company unveiled its first store built under the framework on 16 February 2024 in Washington, D.C., US.

This flagship location serves as a model for future renovations and new builds, showcasing a range of accessibility features designed to foster a welcoming and inclusive environment. These features include:

  • Optimised acoustics and lighting: Strategic use of materials reduces unwanted noise and minimises glare, creating a more comfortable and accessible auditory and visual experience for both customers and employees.
  • Accessible equipment: Equipment such as the Clover Vertica brewer has been redesigned with larger dials and buttons, improved visual and haptic feedback, and easier reach for employees of all abilities.
  • Clear and unobstructed pathways: The store layout prioritises continuous, barrier-free pathways, offering open sightlines and wider walkways to accommodate varying heights, distances, and mobility needs.
  • Lowered counters: Counters with overhanging ledges provide easier access for customers using wheelchairs, facilitating smoother communication and interaction with baristas.

Beyond one store

This initiative goes beyond a single location. Starbucks has committed to incorporating the Inclusive Spaces Framework into all newly built and renovated company-operated stores across the US, marking a significant milestone in its accessibility journey.

Furthermore, the company plans to open-source the framework, encouraging industrywide adoption of these inclusive design principles and ultimately fostering a more accessible retail landscape for everyone.

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Addressing a critical need

Starbucks says it recognises the importance of accessibility, acknowledging that an estimated one in four adults in the US has a disability.

By prioritising inclusive design, it aims to address this critical need and create welcoming spaces where everyone feels comfortable and able to participate.

This aligns with the company’s continued focus on strong unit economics and strategic store growth, demonstrating that accessibility and expansion can go hand in hand.

The Inclusive Spaces Framework is an extension of Starbucks’ longstanding commitment to inclusivity.

This includes initiatives such as operating 23 Signing Stores with deaf baristas, providing free Aira services to customers with poor vision or who are blind, and fostering an internal Disability Advocacy Partner Network that empowers employees with disabilities.