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Starbucks Malaysia sets the benchmark for recruitment of deaf partners

10 deaf individuals are employed with employees known as “partners” within Starbucks, one employed as the shift manager

Starbucks Malaysia has recently opened a controversial new store in Bangsar Village II that is dedicated to raising awareness of people with disabilities in the workplace with its new diversity initiative.

The unique store is the first Starbucks store in the world to employ deaf baristas and is being praised for paving the way for disabled employees across the globe. Starbucks Malaysia, in partnership with The Society of Interpreters for the Deaf (SID), is dedicated to hiring and training deaf partners and teaching the hearing partners how to sign.

Starbucks local support centre is also encouraging and supporting hearing partners to learn the Malaysian standard sign language. This should encourage communication and training between hearing and deaf partners and ensure an ongoing recruitment of deaf partners in the future. The broader objective is to increase employment of deaf people across Malaysia.

Training of the deaf partners will follow the conventional operational training of the hearing partners and includes basic barista instruction and food handling.

Customer experience

Customers of the Malaysia store will experience a quieter atmosphere than other Starbucks stores, with baristas signing beverage orders to each other rather than calling them out. Customers are required to mark their order on a simple menu card and communication between the deaf partners and the customers is handled through a simple handwritten note system.

Once the order is placed, the customer receives a receipt with an order number on it, which is then displayed on a screen when ready for collection.


The managing director of Starbucks Malaysia and Brunei, Sydney Quays, explains how the company has a strong history of developing opportunities for population groups who are typically underrepresented in employment. He adds that the firm is proud to support and empower disabled individuals by enriching the lives and careers of deaf partners.

He emphasised Starbucks Malaysia’s aim to raise awareness of disabilities and the value that disabled employees can bring to the workplace.

The chairman of SID, Alvin YM Wong, stated that the Starbucks Malaysia initiative would empower deaf partners and, through continued training and development, would allow a furthering of their careers with feelings of accomplishment and pride.


The deaf shift manager of the Bangsar Village II store, Muhammad Aizad Bin Ariffin (Aizad), joined Starbucks Malaysia in 2013 with the aim of becoming Starbuck’s first hearing impaired store manager. Aizad is proud to be working with Starbucks and enjoys helping to develop the careers of deaf individuals.

He stated that his future aim is to become the first hearing impaired coffee master employed by Starbucks Malaysia.

A previous diversity initiative within the company, which focuses on employing other under-represented groups to the workplace, saw the launch of the VIP Program to attract the older employee over the age of 55 years.

This programme sees Starbucks offering flexible working hours and other benefits to older employees and has resulted in the employment of a 73 year old and more than 10 other VIP partners within the Starbucks Malaysia stores.

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