With This Princeton Startup’s Platform, You Can Learn Sign Language From Behind Your Computer Screen
Building strong relationships with people is hard enough as it is. Now, imagine trying to develop a friendship with someone else who speaks a different language. It’s exhausting and inefficient. Many of us have been in this situation when traveling in different countries or interacting with those can’t speak English. Often times, we forget that deaf individuals experience a very similar frustration on a daily basis as most people don’t know American Sign Language (ASL). Thanks to a Princeton startup, people can now learn ASL much more easily than ever before.
Founded in 2014 by three Princeton University classmates, Colin Lualdi, Evan Corden, and Jack Hudson, SignSchool teaches people ASL through an easy-to-use online video-based platform. As a result, individuals all across the country are being equipped with the ASL skills they need to effectively communicate with the deaf community.
Immersive ASL Learning Experience
SignSchool solves several challenges for those trying to learn American Sign Language. Before the startup’s founding, high-quality ASL education was limited to expensive in-person classes or outdated textbooks and websites that relied on static images. Now, people have a low-cost and remarkably effective option for learning ASL.
With SignSchool, ASL lessons are divided into modules and come with interactive games and exercises. Users have the opportunity to apply what they learn immediately with deaf individuals through video conferencing and can also record themselves practicing. Additionally, the platform includes a comprehensive dictionary for looking up key phrases and an easy-to-read dashboard that summarizes user progress. SignSchool is free to sign up and also comes with a mobile app to enable ASL learning on the go.
“However, there was a conundrum. There was a language barrier because I sign and they speak English.”
– Co-founder Colin Lualdi
The founding trio of Colin Lualdi, Evan Corden, and Jack Hudson met while attending Princeton back in 2014. Lualdi, who is deaf, communicated with Corden and Hudson by writing messages on paper. The three found it impersonal and frustrating to converse in this way, which planted the seeds of inspiration for SignSchool. Shortly after launching, SignSchool was accepted into Princeton’s eLab Summer Accelerator and benefited tremendously from the resources and mentorship available through the program.
Outside of SignSchool, founder Lualdi stayed busy. He also co-founded Princeton’s American Sign Language Club and went on to receive numerous accolades, including the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program award and the University’s Pyka Memorial and Allen G. Shenstone Prizes in physics. Additionally, Lualdi was also awarded a “25 under 25” feature from the “Innovation” journal. Today, he remains closely involved with SignSchool in addition to supporting Princeton’s Office of Information Technology.
Solve Your Own Problem
This Untold Spotlight Initiative story reminds us that there may be major business opportunity in solving your own problem. Initially, SignSchool’s founders, Corden and Hudson were looking for a way to further their friendship with Lualdi by learning ASL. However, there were few easily accessible resources available, inspiring them to develop their own solution.
More than likely, there are other people out there who experience frustrations and challenges very similar to what you’ve designed a solution to address for yourself. Rather than keeping it under wraps, consider how you may be able to expand access to deliver your product to others who will resonate with the challenges you face.
Interested in learning American Sign Language? Sign up for SignSchool for FREE here.