Image shows woman holding mobile phone and cuts of coffee from Starbucks.
Accessibility & Technology

Starbucks Focus on Accessibility

Aug 20, 2021

Starbucks Focus on Accessibility

There’s a lot to choose from at Starbucks, and for a person who is visually impaired, or blind, it can be a very tall order.  Browsing the menu, posted high above the barista, is simply out of reach.  We stick with the usual Caffe Latte, or Chai, because we have no idea a Strawberry Funnel Cake Frappuccino even exists. If we want something to eat with our delicious beverage, that selection too will require a certain degree of sight. Identifying the sandwiches in a refrigeration case may be possible with low vision, but reading the label, to figure out what lies between the bread, will not be so easy. We wonder, are there any sous-vide egg white bites available today?


Image shows hand holding a triumphant Frappuccino

Image shows hand holding a triumphant Frappuccino


Working around obstacles is something people who are visually impaired do everyday. Starbucks is working to minimized the challenges in their stores. To improve access to visual information, the   Seattle based coffee chain is offering several options to address accessibility issues and elevate inclusion.


 image shows logo for Aira app

Image shows logo for Aira app


Aira guest access is now available in all US Starbucks locations. Aira is a smartphone app (pronounced I-ra) that connects users to a live agent trained in reading and navigation assistance for people who have low vision or are blind.  The Aira service utilizes a combination of human and artificial intelligence, providing instant access to a sighted guide when you need it. The app will tell you when you’re in a sponsored location like Starbucks, Target, Bank of America, Walgreens and Wegmans, in which case the business is paying Aira to provide you, the customer, with visual assistance. The Aira agents will help you get around the store and tell you what’s on the menu, in the cases and on the counter. More about Aira

In the US and Canada, Starbucks added a large print and braille menu, actually the braille is a textured overlay on top of the large print pages. It is the largest large print menu we’ve ever seen, weighing in at 30 pages. For people who don’t read large print or braille, the menu on Starbucks website and mobile app, with newly improved accessibility, are probably better options.

The accessibility updates are linked to Starbucks new diversity and inclusion initiatives and company wide goals. The commitment is serious and there will be more attention paid to accessibility and the inclusive design of everything.

Stop in and celebrate your freedom of choice with a Green Tea Frappuccino!
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About the Author: Dorrie Rush

Dorrie Rush is the Chief Content Officer and Visual Accessibility Expert at Ophthalmic Edge Patients (OE Patients), an online resource, presented by the Association for Macular Diseases, providing practical information and empowering advice for living a full and successful life with vision loss.

She is the former Director of the Grunwald Technology Center and Information Resource Service at Lighthouse International 2001 to 2016. Dorrie is known to have an eccentric view, which is particularly useful in compensating for her central vision loss from Stargardt Disease.



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