Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Starbucks remodel

All through law school I used to go to Starbucks almost every day. Grab a cup of a white mocha in a "for here" mug  and spend hours reading for class or studying for exams. Now I live across from their store in downtown Gainesville and you might be surprised to know- I don't go there that much at all. I'm a huge coffee drinker- although not as much as I used to. Its proximity was a huge selling point when I was picking out apartments and I still have meetings there from time to time because it has tables and chairs and it's a location that everyone knows.  The store changed - quite literally- and with the updated feel it is I who doesn't feel comfortable there anymore. Few months ago it underwent some extensive remodeling.  I was actually exited to see the finished product. It may look stylish and sophisticated and it even serves wine. In the process, with all the sitting areas and new furnitur,e it forgot to at least try to be wheelchair friendly. And I know it's probably not a concern for them. I doubt wheelchair users storm Starbucks locations daily to get coffee, but it matters to me. Coffee is an indulgence not a necessity and I tend not go where I don't feel welcome unless I have to. And if the most prominent area of the store is a high bar with stools, you know it feels off limits to me. Everything is out of reach. I'm now far more limited to where I can sit with my cup.  With the couch  closer to the door placed in front of some smaller tables and some tables on the sides, the shop feels like a maze that I have to navigate with small isles between the stools and chairs. I can't even roll from the door the door to the registers without waiting on someone to scoot over to let me get through or having to move their backpack off the ground. I could go for the table by the couches, but the isle is to small to face it, there's no room- so I have to position myself sideways. I can only use it as a side-table. It doesn't make me feel comfortable. Everything is higher and feels more crowed. Whoever approved this style clearly never had to use a wheelchair. I miss the times when the floorplan was more open and inviting. Because for me this was not it. I felt rushed. Even as I was able to claim some piece of a table top to rest my elbow on I felt constantly in the way. Unwelcome. Unwanted. Not fitting in with whatever "modern" design Starbucks  is going for as it transitioned from a coffee chain to "everything for everyone" type of franchise. I hope that it realizes that in turn it may disfranchise people like me. And I must say, As I ate my food and drank my cappuccino  facing the side of the room I kept thinking how much I'd like to sit with Starbucks executives, tell them about the work we have cut out for us at the Florida Disability Access and Awareness Foundation, the need for more inclusion, accessibility and empathy.

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