May 21, 2015 Community

Global Accessibility Awareness Day: Starbucks Supports Digital Inclusion

One mobile app has improved a Portland woman’s morning routine dramatically.

In the past, the 26-year-old who is deaf struggled to communicate a food and beverage order with baristas in a busy Starbucks during the morning rush hour. Today, she uses the Mobile Order & Pay feature on the Starbucks® mobile app on her iPhone®, customizes her order, and picks it up in her local store. It’s a timesaver, and a way for her to get exactly what she wants. 

Starbucks Mobile Order & Pay, currently available in the Pacific Northwest, is the latest feature on the Starbucks® app for iPhone® that has become a standout for the deaf community. In a recent review by deaffriendly.com, the Starbucks feature was described as a “game changer” based on the customer’s ability to order on a device instead of in person, which eliminates communications challenges for people who are deaf.

More than 1 billion people, an estimated 15 percent of the world’s population, have some form of disability, according to the World Health Organization. Starbucks recognizes Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) on May 21, and supports diversity and inclusion year-round. 

GAAD began as a challenge by a Los Angeles-based developer, Joe Devon, to dedicate a day to think about, learn about and experience digital accessibility. In 2012, he joined forces with Jennison Asuncion, LinkedIn’s accessibility director, to leverage their respective networks to coordinate the annual event.

Starbucks has had a Web Accessibility Standard in place for many years to ensure its websites are both accessible and inclusive. More recently, in 2014, a group of Starbucks partners (employees) established the Starbucks Web & Mobile Community of Practice made up of analysts, designers, developers and testers working to improve the web and mobile experience for Starbucks customers.

“I joined the team to provide content for the Starbucks mobile app,” said Marli Larimer, systems analyst for Web and Mobile Engineering. “From the start, there was a mandate to ensure that the app was accessible to all Starbucks customers.”

Larimer helped to write a specialized accessibility specification that Starbucks developers used to code each function of the app. Larimer also brought in a person who is blind to test and conduct a functional user review and provide feedback on what needed further improvement prior to an update of the mobile app in 2014.

Partners at Starbucks headquarters in Seattle will be invited to observe GAAD by joining in a series of activities to gain awareness of accessibility challenges. This includes working on a computer without a mouse for one hour. Using a keyboard alone (tab/shift tab, arrow keys, enter and spacebar) navigate and interact with favorite websites and applications. Another example involves enlarging font size to check that web pages are accessible and usable for low vision/visually impaired users. To do this, resize the text to 200 percent. Now look at the screen, and make sure there is no loss of content or functionality.

These exercises are intended to encourage empathy for the experience of those with disabilities. Partners and customers are invited to demonstrate their solidarity with accessibility while sharing their experiences on social media using #GAAD.

Also, check out these related Starbucks Newsroom stories: 

Hiring Workers with Disabilities at Starbucks Largest Distribution Plant

Discovering Strengths and Embracing Abilities - My Peaberry Story

Partners with Disabilities Bring Creativity and Innovation to Starbucks

Starbucks Barista Deals with Deafness with a Winning Smile

‘When we enter our local Starbucks, it’s like getting together with family’


For more information on this story, contact Starbucks Newsroom