“Accidentally Adaptive” is what I call products or services that aren’t specifically created for disability purposes, but have some added benefit for me as a disabled woman. You can read the rest of my Accidentally Adaptive posts too if you’re new!
If you know me at all, or have followed me online even for just a little bit, you probably know about my love of Starbucks. It is no joke that I’m often found with Starbucks cup in hand. So it’s very fun for me to share today about how the mobile ordering that Starbucks offers is actually accidentally adaptive.
It’s a little bit trickier for me to get easily now that I’m working from home, but when I worked at the office on campus there were multiple Starbucks locations within a 5ish minute walk, and I was there often – sometimes multiple times a day. Because of SMA, I have a pretty quiet voice, and certain letters / sounds can be hard to understand when I say them! This is only made worse in a loud, crowded Starbucks. One of my go-to orders is a cappuccino, which sounds incredibly similar to Frappuccino when you’re quiet and trying your very best to yell to the barista at the register. We always got it figured out in the end, but it was a little bit of a struggle for me sometimes.
Because I worked on a college campus, the lines could get pretty long if I accidentally showed up around the time a class nearby let out. And my time was often limited, too. My lunchtime was usually spent meeting my mom somewhere on campus so that I could use the bathroom. Because I have to get transferred, then get situated back in my chair, it’s a whole process and can take a bit of time. So I’d try to be efficient and pick up my drink while I was already out, but that could easily add another 10-15 minutes if there was a long line. It doesn’t sound like a lot in the scheme of things, but it’s just an extra logistical wrinkle on top of something that is already incredibly carefully planned out.
To make things even more challenging, I have a very specific order. Because, like I mentioned, my ability to use the bathroom during the day is very limited and has to be planned out, I also need to be careful about how much I’m drinking! So I’ve come up with my own way to maximize caffeine intake while minimizing the actual amount of liquid, and of course, in a way that I actually enjoy and is tasty to me! I also can’t easily take the lid off the cup to stir in my own sugar / sweeteners, either. So I need to order everything upfront, so that the baristas do all the adding and mixing. Which is fine! But definitely makes it harder for me to order. For a while, my order was “extra super dry short cappuccino, with four shots, nonfat milk, and three Splenda.” It’s a lot for me to say out loud!
All of this is why I was extremely excited when Starbucks introduced mobile ordering. Honestly, there isn’t a superlative that exists to really convey HOW happy I was when mobile ordering started. It made things so, so much easier for me. I don’t have to worry about the barista not being able to hear me (or mis-hearing me) and I don’t have to worry about how long the line will be. It might sound silly and small – how bad can ordering in person really be? I get it – but I’ve said before how much of my day involves planning and logistics. This one thing might be small, but not only does it make ordering much (physically!) easier for me, it also helps me do it more independently. I don’t need to have someone with me who can “translate” my order for the barista, because it’s all there, printed out in words.
There are so many other situations that I can imagine, too! I don’t want to speak for disabilities that are not mine, but I can imagine situations other than my own physical disability where mobile ordering would be easier than in person. And even for me – being able to send someone (a friend, my mom, or even a personal care attendant) to pick up a drink for me and know that it’s the right drink AND that it’s already paid for is super helpful.
Obviously, mobile ordering is something that many people use and benefit from. It’s fast! You don’t have to wait in line! But I will forever sing it’s praises because for me, the benefit really does go above and beyond. That, to me, is exactly what an accidentally adaptive product or service should do!