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Starbucks is Updating Its Cafes to Be More Accessible With New Inclusive Designs

Restaurant design changes include a point of sales system that’s accessible for the visually impaired, power-operated doors, and wider pedestrian paths Joanna Fantozzi | Feb 16, 2024

Starbucks announced Friday the rollout of a new inclusive cafe layout, designed with accessibility in mind. The new Inclusive Spaces Framework, which creates more accessible spaces for both employees and customers with visual and audible impairment, wheelchair users, and more, is part of the company’s updated commitment to inclusivity.

Eventually, all Starbucks stores will be either built or renovated to incorporate this framework. Additionally, a Starbucks representative confirmed that the framework design will be open sourced and continuously developed for use across the retail industry.

The first store built within this framework opened on Feb. 16 in Washington, D.C. at Union Market, and is staffed by both signing employees and employees that use their voices. The new features inside the store include an updated point of sales system with an adjustable angle that can be seen at multiple levels and heights, voice assist, screen magnification, menu item images and visual order confirmation.

Other features include customer order status boards that show customers when their order is ready to pick up, power-operated doors that are opened with a long vertical button that can be reached by multiple heights, and improved acoustics and adjustable lighting that reduce glare, shadows, and background noise, in order to reduce interference with hearing aids and/or visual communication. More design elements include wider pedestrian paths and lower countertops to make the store experience easier for wheelchair users, as well as more accessible equipment for baristas behind the counter and free access to the Aira app, which provides real-time interpretation for blind and low-vision customers.

The Washington, D.C. store includes unique design features like a mural designed by a deaf artist, rounded edges, as well as large communal spaces.

“At Starbucks, we have challenged ourselves to imagine what’s possible when we take a closer look at the many ways our partners and customers interact with us and experience our stores every day,” Katie Young, senior vice president of store operations said in a statement. “Building and scaling an Inclusive Store Framework is central to our mission of connection and will lead to greater access for all.”

This is not the first time Starbucks has made headlines for its store improvements around inclusivity. In 2018, the company opened its first signing store for deaf and hearing-impaired customers and employees, which is now one of 23 similar stores globally. In 2021, the company began offering large print and braille menus to all stores across the U.S. and Canada, and in 2022, the company unveiled a sneak peek at the accessible store designs that have officially been unveiled this week.

This is not the only major company announcement Starbucks made this week. During the Seattle-based coffee chain’s last earnings call in January, Starbucks announced its newest Starbucks Reward Together partnership. The first one was with Delta, and the second one is with Bank of America. Now new details have emerged: Starting Feb. 16, customers will earn 2% cash back on top of existing card benefits and 1 Star per $2 spent at Starbucks if they link a Bank of America credit or debit card account with their Starbucks account.

“This partnership is the latest example of how we are continuing to invest in our most loyal customers to deepen engagement and connection by offering benefits and experiences that can’t be found anywhere else,” Ryan Butz, vice president of loyalty strategy and marketing at Starbucks, said in a statement.

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Accessibility Advocate Calls on Winnipeg to Prioritize Sidewalk Snow-Clearing

Councillor says motion would have cost city about $60M a year Arturo Chang, CBC News
Posted: Jan 31, 2024

At least one Winnipegger is taking issue with a recent comment by a city councillor suggesting residents have been “spoiled” by sidewalk snow-clearing.

On Tuesday, the city’s standing committee on public works voted against recommending a motion put forward by Coun. Matt Allard that would have required clearing of sidewalks and active transportation pathways in the city at the same priority as roads.

Some councillors on the committee voiced concerns about how the city would pay for that work. Coun. Janice Lukes, the committee’s chair, said the bottom line is everything “comes with a price.”

“Honestly, we’re a snow city, and I think we’re doing incredible work and I think sometimes we get a little spoiled from the incredible work we’re doing and we want it instantaneously,” Lukes said during the meeting.

That comment didn’t sit well with Melissa Graham, who said she definitely didn’t feel spoiled recently when her power wheelchair got stuck four times on the way to an appointment, in what would’ve been a 20-minute walk.

“Thankfully, I have neighbours comfortable pulling over and helping me out. Not everyone lives in that kind of neighbourhood in this city,” she said.

“The councillors that were making this decision saw sidewalk clearing as kind of a privilege, when in reality it’s a barrier for many folks and prevents a lot of folks from leaving their home in the winter.”

Graham is the executive director of the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities. It and other organizations are running a campaign to raise awareness about the barriers people with disabilities face due to a lack of snow-clearing.

“We are a winter city, which means we are tough about winter, but that also means we have a responsibility to make sure everyone in this city has the ability to go about the city at wintertime,” Graham said.

Sidewalks and active transportation paths marked as being top priority under the city’s three-tiered system must be plowed within 36 hours after more than five centimetres of snow accumulation.

Areas under Priority 3, which is made up of residential streets and adjacent sidewalks and active pathways, are only plowed within five days of more than eight centimetres of snowfall.

Graham said the current system discriminates against people based on where they live.

She said the committee should reconsider its position as a matter of public safety.

“What really just hurt me is they failed to see sidewalk snow-clearing as an accessibility issue that not only impacts people with disabilities but people without disabilities as well,” Graham said.

City would have to raise taxes, councillor says

Coun. Lukes told CBC News Wednesday that, by saying Winnpeggers were spoiled by the city’s snow-clearing work, she was referring to the fact many cities across Canada do not plow sidewalks or residential roads.

“I know people want instantaneous snow removal. But considering other cities across Canada, I think we do a stellar job,” she said.

“For sure, there are tiny little bits and pieces that may not get addressed during a large snow event, but a simple call or an email, we’ll get people out there to address it.”

Lukes said removing all that snow, as well as the mounds that would form if the city clears both street and sidewalks, would mean higher taxes and a bigger impact on the environment.

She said the committee rejected the motion because it could cost the city an estimated $60 million a year.

The motion would also have required contractors to remove snow that’s pushed onto sidewalks as a result of clearing operations.

The Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities is asking people to share photos and stories of snow not being cleared properly or at all in Winnipeg this winter, which they plan to submit to the city.

With files from Zubina Ahmed

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From Trails to Exhibits, Parks Aim to Increase Accessibility

July 23, 2018

CAVE CITY, Ky. (AP) David Allgood and Tom Stokes glide up a slight incline to the wooden platform overlooking the Green River at Mammoth Cave National Park. From there, they watch through a glass panel as the Kentucky park’s lone ferry carries a Jeep across the water below.

The longtime friends turn their wheelchairs and roll toward the recently improved Echo River Spring Trail, which is wide enough for them to travel side-by-side. Accompanied by the gurgling water and chirping birds, they chat quietly about the trail and the thought that went into the view unobstructed by railings.

“It’s probably the best trail I’ve ever been on as far as accessibility,” Stokes said. “It’s really scenic. It’s awesome to be out here in the trees, the mature forest, and see the sun coming through, and the birds, the nature.”

The upgraded trail reopened earlier this year after a $1.1 million transformation from a rolling, rutted gravel footpath to an 8-foot-wide concrete and wood path with little slope. New exhibits include Braille and invite visitors to experience them by touch to make them more meaningful to the visually or cognitively impaired.

The Mammoth Cave project is an early step in a coordinated push by the National Park Service to improve and increase accessibility for people with disabilities. The nationwide effort, launched in 2015 with federal grant money, was aimed at increasing the diversity of park visitors.

Nine parks have received more than $10 million in federal funding to design and build projects as examples for other parks as they work toward making trails, buildings, waterways and camping more accessible, said Jeremy Buzzell, chief of the accessibility and housing program for the National Park Service.

A project at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Alaska focused on making historic buildings more accessible also is complete, and four other parks have projects in the works.

Klondike officials gutted the interior of the park museum in a railway building dating to 1900 and redesigned it to be more accessible. Before renovations, the dimly lit museum consisted primarily of displays best viewed from a standing position, visual information specialist Kira Pontius said.

Now the park has interactive exhibits, displays are at a better height for people in wheelchairs and many have small models that visitors can touch with their hands, Pontius said. Visitors also can use audio devices that describe and give background on every display.

Pontius said the changes have improved the park experience for everyone.

“We have a museum that is much more modern. It’s lighter. It really tells the story, beginning to end, of the gold rush,” she said.

The director of National Center on Accessibility in Bloomington, Indiana, said parks should highlight their improvements for the nearly 20 percent of Americans who have a disability.

“If you take the time to provide these opportunities, then shout it from the mountaintop, essentially, to let people know, because a lot of times people just assume they can’t do something and choose not to go,” Sherrill York said.

The center gave Mammoth Cave officials guidance on their changes and reviewed their designs, said Dave Wyrick, chief of interpretation and visitor services at the park.

The Echo River Spring Trail is the second above-ground trail at the park to be made accessible to wheelchair users, but it’s the first all-access trail for those with other types of disabilities. The park also offers an accessible cave tour.

“We just wanted a universal trail that talked about Mammoth Cave and how it was formed, the springs and things, that everybody could experience,” he said.

Allgood and Stokes, who know each other through a disability resource center in Louisville, traveled about 90 miles (145 kilometers) south to check out the trail, which has added picnic tables that allow them to sit comfortably on the sides instead of awkwardly at either end.

Allgood said he’s seen accessibility improve over the 36 years he has used a wheelchair but knows there’s a long way to go. He said he visited the trail before the park started working on it and was only able to travel about 150 feet before he was forced to turn back.

“It’s fantastic what Mammoth Cave and the National Park System are doing to make it accessible for those of us with disabilities and mobility impairments, because now we’re welcome to come and actually see aspects of the park that we were never able to do before,” he said.

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