Coding For Everyone

I love writing blog posts about things that make common sense. This is one of those posts.

The screen at the Apple event

Photo credit: Mike Knezovich

Last week Apple commemorated Global Accessibility Awareness Day (a day emphasizing the importance of accessible tech and design) by announcing a new partnership with Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired to bring its Everyone Can Code curriculum to more people with visual impairments.

Apple products have long been a favorite of people who have disabilities, and that’s because accessibility features we use come automatically with each Apple product, which means we don’t have to pay for extra software to make Apple products work for us.

One of the many, many reasons I decided to buy an iPhone back in 2011 was to support the idea of universal design: the iPhone 3GS was the first touch-screen device that blind people like me could take out of the box and use right away. Apple products come with speech software called VoiceOver (built-in screen access for people who are blind) that miraculously allows us to interact using the touch-screen.

The audience at the event

Photo credit: Mike Knezovich

I need a refresher course every now and then, though, so when I heard that Douglas Walker, Hadley’s director of assistive technology, was in Chicago last Tuesday to give a free VoiceOver course at the Chicago Apple store, I signed up. In retrospect, I should have known there was some big announcement on the horizon!

Hadley has been offering correspondence classes to teach Braille to students for nearly 100 years, but lately the free videos Hadley offers about using accessibility features built into Apple devices have become far more popular than the Braille classes the school offers. Walker, the man who taught the VoiceOver course I attended Tuesday, narrates the VoiceOver videos by talking through the gestures. “Don’t worry that it’s a YouTube video,” he laughed during class Tuesday. “Really, all you have to do is listen.”

The series of new videos Walker will narrate for the Everyone Can Code partnership will follow a pattern similar to Hadley’s other instructional videos, starting by using games to teach people how to code. The videos will be available free of charge, and kids and adults who want to teach themselves to code can use the videos at home in addition to teachers who use the videos in classrooms.

“Often, people suffer vision loss as adults and have to start over,” Colleen Wunderlich, director of the Forsythe Center for Employment and Entrepreneurship at Hadly pointed out in a Chicago Tribune article last week. “People sometimes leave the workforce to adjust to their new reality. With the proper training, people who are blind or visually impaired could pursue a career in coding.”

Let’s face it. The ability to code is a great skill to have on a resume. As Douglas Walker said in that same Chicago Tribune story last week, “Coding is definitely the future for everyone, even when you’re in your 50s.”

Gee whiz. That means even I can give it a try.


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