Making Inclusive and Accessible Tech a Priority
Technology grants instant access to world events, distant loved ones, and on demand transportation, but the access that many take for granted isn’t readily available to everyone. This begs a critical question: who and what does this technology serve? The Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology states that accessible technology is “designed with the needs of a lot of different users in mind.”
Entrada ESL is a tech-enabled language company. Our name speaks to the “employer-sponsored learning” program we offer as well as the work we do teaching English as a second language. We built our platform to serve a multitude of users to ensure that people of different backgrounds, levels of education, and ages could participate with ease. We are focused on delivering impactful results to the users we serve, predominantly entry-level service industry employees. In the United States, forty-one percent (25.1 million) of immigrant workers are considered Limited English Proficient (LEP). Limited English proficiency refers to anyone above the age of 5 who reported speaking English less than “very well,” as classified by the U.S. Census Bureau. By building a hybrid approach of in-person support and flexible technology, Entrada enables new demographics to achieve their English proficiency goals with confidence.
Entrada provides holistic workplace English programs for service industry employers. Our platform empowers limited-English speaking staff to become conversational and confident in English within 100 days. Our program includes:
- Wearable hardware that is pre-loaded with scientifically-developed audio software;
- Engagement tools that ensure the program remains accessible and interesting to participants;
- Cohort learning techniques;
- Supervisor support tools.
We built a program based on inclusive and accessible technology by focusing on four main principles that are outlined below:
Meet participants where they are
A ‘digital immigrant’, a term coined in 2001 by writer Marc Prensky, is an individual born before the widespread adoption of digital technology. The adults using Entrada’s platform are often digital immigrants from a variety of backgrounds, and range in age from 19-62. Given this digital divide, Entrada chose to take a blended learning approach. Rather than creating another web-based platform or language app for learners to use on their own time, we developed a method to maximize time in the day while enabling learners to multitask. We provide wearable hardware and complement it with robust workplace training so that employers and employees alike benefit from our development tool. Learners become confident in navigating the technology independently, while on the job.
While working with warehouse employees at Rent the Runway, a fashion subscription service, we discovered that participants not only increased comfort using technology while at the workplace, but also became more able to interact with English-speaking colleagues and managers. Training of critical communication skills led to improved operations on the warehouse floor.
In building Entrada’s platform, defining accessibility meant determining what factors prevent learners from using existing technology and speaking a new language in real-world scenarios.
We found that one of the most common barriers for adults speaking a new language is pronunciation – articulating sounds that may not exist in their native language. One aspect of our TalkBack® Method addresses this challenge by enabling participants to develop comfort speaking English on a daily basis. This process guides adults to formulate new sounds and words while building confidence to take risks in their new language.
Test Your Assumptions
Like all startups, when we first tested our program we encountered a period of trial and error. Our initial programs saw high enthusiasm at the onset, but enthusiasm waned within the first few days of use.
This is a pattern not uncommon with language learning providers. According to a 2011 study on language learning software in the workplace, under 15 percent of people who begin a language course will complete the course. While that number is itself is low, we saw even lower completion from early groups.
This led to the development of our strongest differentiator. We incorporated feedback gathered from our learners, their employers, workplace psychologists to increase usage. Our current offering is now more accessible to the service industry employees who use it. We are able to guarantee that 70 percent of participants who begin Entrada will complete the program. Furthermore, our recent programs outpaced even that ambitious target. We continue to test every step of the way, ensuring that our program is accessible for our learners and their employers alike.
Support Where Support is Needed
In learning any new skill, guided support is a critical element of learner motivation and student success. Just like 1776, Entrada focuses on guiding our customers through a cohort model filled with impactful resources. This supportive ecosystem approach allows participants to thrive. We attribute much of our early success to community members who guided us along the way and wanted to replicate that for our students.
The workplace atmosphere created by Entrada provides a critical element of mentorship and support that gives learners additional confidence in using our technology. The results have shown significant improvement not only in language skills, but also in workforce interactions. On average, learners using Entrada demonstrate a 134 percent increase in the ability to have a conversation in English, which we measure using parallel pre- and post- tests. 100 percent of users report increased appreciation for managers upon completing our first 100-day course.
In summary, Entrada’s success will be attributed to our dedication to creating an accessible and inclusive program. Learner testimonials reflect these results. One participant, Gloria, shared, “It’s always been one of my goals to learn English and until now it’s been out of my reach. Now that I’ve learned a little, I know I can learn more. And I will, and I am. I know I can do it.”
To learn more about our approach, the benefits of workplace English programs, or to schedule a demo, please visit www.entradaesl.com. We look forward to creating a more compassionate future through increased communication, accessible to everyone, together.