By American Printing House for the Blind
It’s the most natural thing in the world for parents to have high hopes for their children in adulthood: what kind of career they may choose, whether they want a family, or any other interests they may pursue. Parents of children who are blind or visually impaired have the same dreams for their children – and there’s no reason they can’t lead fulfilling, successful lives in adulthood.
Any career that’s heavily text-based can be a great choice for people who are visually impaired, thanks to tools such as screen readers, which read text on a screen out loud or convert it to braille. In particular, there’s a big demand for computer coders, which is unlikely to slow down in the future.
Unfortunately, not every coding curriculum used in schools is accessible, despite tools like screen readers. Plus, many students don’t begin learning about technology until middle school. That’s where Code JumperTM comes in. Originally designed by Microsoft® and developed by American Printing House for the Blind (APH), Code Jumper makes coding a tactile experience any student can engage with to learn the basics of coding, instead of using a screen. Suitable for students starting at an early age, Code Jumper is made of colorful plastic pods with oversized buttons and knobs. The pods are connected by thick cords, similar to computer cords, to create computer code.
Student success is essential to career success
For Russell Hinderman of Ohio, who is visually impaired, Code Jumper replaced the inaccessible curriculum his 7th grade class was using to learn coding. It’s a skill he’d been developing on his own using the screen reader built into his tablet. But his mother, Heidi, says Code Jumper has helped him build those skills even further.
“He was constantly coming home and talking about Code Jumper and felt such a sense of accomplishment when he did something correctly,” she says. “I think Code Jumper helped him recognize the enjoyment he feels when he’s coding.”
What’s more, Heidi adds, Code Jumper has demonstrated what kinds of careers are possible for Russell.
“It’s an opportunity to learn something new and the possibility of what’s out there in the world,” she says. “It gave him a realistic view of a job opportunity he would be great at and enjoys – and it doesn’t matter if you have vision or not.”
Building skills and shaping dreams
Amanda Robinson of Kentucky, whose son Braeden is the same age as Russell and has been blind since birth, says Braeden was already interested in computer coding, but Code Jumper taught them both a thing or two.
“It’s a really good jumping-off point to make sure he has a good foundation before he starts trying to get into regular computer programming,” she says. “And because I don’t understand anything about computer programming, it gave me an idea of what he was doing and a way to connect with him.”
Amanda adds that because computers and technology are increasingly accessible, a career in this field seems very feasible for Braeden, who says he’s “fairly certain” he’s going to choose computer programming as a career.
“It seems that there’s a huge need in this field, which is great,” she says. “Technology is such a big part of his life and it always will be. He’s developing programs on his own now that will help him with school, which I think will keep him on the cutting edge of technology.”
As for Russell, he credits Code Jumper with inspiring him to imagine a bright, bold future for himself.
“It really helped me dream of becoming this tech guy and building this empire of technology,” he says. “I’m just going to follow that dream and keep going with it.”