What does it take to employ people with disabilities? A choice! Industries, organizations, businesses and all others must make a deliberate decision to do more than make an effort and go out and employ people with disabilities. Starbucks is not known for doing this in their stores. Now they have been awarded by a number of disability organizations for employing people with disabilities, but it should be noted that those same organizations receive large donations for funding (what that is used for remains a mystery).
What those awards and accolades fail to address is that Starbucks may have a few people with disabilities working in their corporate offices and in their factory located in Nevada (for another post – can you say segregated employment?). But it is a rare occasion that you the customer will go into a store and find a person with a visible disability working behind that counter. In fact most of the counters you find in a Starbucks store are inaccessible as is most of the store. Those counters are set way too high for someone with a mobility disability to navigate without harm (hot products burn).
There is no clear pathway of travel for persons with mobility disabilities to walk or roll around and function effectively in their stores. From the point of ordering to the point of pick up of the product there are sets of selling carrousels, small aisles and a number of other barriers in their way. Starbucks is trying to use every square foot of their store with tables and chairs for people to sit in (without getting arrested) and fellowship in their shops. There are usually no tables that are set low for people with mobility disabilities and no spacing in the aisle for the same community to move around in the store. The cash registers and credit/debit cards machines are inaccessible for people with disabilities to swipe on their own (they are set too high or the buttons on the machines are not accessible). *Note this is a problem in most retail settings.
Many Starbucks are set up in buildings that are inaccessible or they have a set of stairs as an entrance or part of the set up in the shop. A number of the bathrooms in Starbucks are also not accessible because of their set up inside another entity such as a bookstore, an office building etc. They blame the entity for not being accessible not the fact that they decided purposefully to open a store in this inaccessible space.
All of these obstacles make Starbucks stores not only inaccessible to customers with disabilities but one can deduct that if you can’t be a consumer in the business you surely can’t work in that entity. That’s just common sense. This is something that has been discussed with Starbucks by a number of disability rights organizations. This has also been Tweeted about on a few Twitter chats about employing people with disabilities. Larger companies like Starbucks have declared a serious commitment to the employment of all people with disabilities. As with all other plans it is one thing to have proposals written into a statement or a policy manual for all to review and it is an entirely different thing to establish a substantive genuine strategy plan to accomplish any set goal.
Now no one can ever know if a person behind the counter has a non-visible disability, like mental health diagnosis or Autism etc. What we want to see are people with physical disabilities behind the counter and in positions of leadership in the stores. Customers will rarely see a Starbucks Barrister who is an amputee, a wheelchair user, using a walker or cane, a person with Developmental Disability (like Down Syndrome) or a Little Person just a few visible disabilities. And yes they can and are doing this type of work at other coffee shops, restaurants and guess what there are people with physical disabilities who are entrepreneurs and actually own their coffee shops.
Starbucks has a claim to be an inclusive and human rights conscientious organization. I challenge all of you to take a long hard look at their operations and how they truly function to implement these claims. It has been interesting to watch disability rights organizations take funding from them yet not hold them accountable to one of the fundamental basics of not only our work but the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) – community integration.
*Challenge:If you go into a Starbucks and see a worker behind the counter with a physical/visible disability (get their permission)– please take a picture of them or take a picture of the location and tag me on the post @NJDC07 for both Twitter and IG!
This boycott #StarbucksArrest is icing on the cake for many of us who have been boycotting Starbucks for years! DO BETTER!
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