Minot barista breaks down barriers with members of the deaf community

MINOT, N.D. - For members of the deaf community, a simple task such as ordering coffee can be difficult, unless your barista is Hannah Nelson

Bonnie Davis isn't able to verbally order her favorite chai. Enter Starbucks barista Hannah Nelson.

Davis, a Starbucks customer said "Hannah told me this stuff. That I could, you know I could, add things to my order. I didn't even realize that. But now, with somebody interpreting for me, it’s awesome."

Hannah Nelson earned Starbucks' American Sign Language pin, that lets customers like Davis know she signs.

"I just say, 'Oh no no no, I know sign language. I can help you,'” said Nelson.

Nelson's love for the language started in MariDon Sorum's introductory signing class at Minot State University.

“As the semester went along, it was just so exciting,” said Sorum. “She was like how can I learn more, how can I learn more. She was just one of those people that was just really interested and really wanted to be immersed in the language."

A chance encounter with a customer who could not hear opened the door for Nelson to show what she can do.

"My supervisor actually called me over because I could tell the person was getting ready just to write down their order and go through the ropes they are so used to. And, she goes, 'no no no no.' She calls me over and the customer was confused for a second, but then when they realized I was signing with them. They got kind of excited. I was happy, because just like such a little thing made them so happy,” said Nelson.

"The connection between the two of them was absolutely phenomenal,” said store manager Kristi Rosselli. “And being able to see that customer walk away with just that little bit of pride and that little bit of belonging. That sense of belonging that was there is something that warms my heart."

Nelson passed a test to earn a pin on her apron that shows she can sign.

"Starbucks is a place where you can come and meet people and have fun and get coffee and why shouldn't you be able to come and do that just because you don' t necessarily use English as your first form of communication," said Nelson.

Using her passions to make Minot a more inclusive community.

Nelson is the only Starbucks barista in North Dakota who dons the ASL sign language pin.

The Starbucks on Broadway also offers a special sign language video camera in the drive-through, as well as Braille menus for those who can't see.