Two years into the COVID pandemic, a lot of people are rethinking their careers for a variety of reasons. A terrific option for people who are blind or low vision is computer coding: creating websites and apps. It’s a field where people with vision loss can thrive because coding is all text-based, making it compatible with screen readers and other technologies. And it’s a field where there are plenty of opportunities, not only for employment but for advancement in your career.
To pursue a career in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) field such as computer coding, start by making sure you are well-versed in assistive technology, says Enjie Hall, Director of Campus Accessibility and Student Disability Services at Ohio’s University of Toledo.
“It requires a holistic approach,” she explains. “The academics is one piece of that. But what’s even more important when we’re talking about the STEM field is the person’s technological knowledge and how comfortable they are using assistive technology. That could be ZoomText or JAWS, or whatever screen reader or zoom program they prefer, or maybe it’s a Braille display. Being proficient in those skills is very important when you’re going into the tech world because that’s what’s going to provide access. It’s leveling the playing field.”
Polish Your Resume and Your Skill Set As Needed
Did you take a lot of STEM classes in high school or college, giving you the right skills for a coding career? Make sure to put those front and center on your resume. If you’re transitioning from another field but know how to code, create some computer programs in your spare time to build a portfolio. When you land an interview, Hall recommends being upfront about your vision loss – and the skills it’s helped you develop, such as problem-solving and innovation. Also, let a potential employer know how you use assistive technology and the accommodations you may need. Although they’re relatively simple, an employer who hasn’t hired someone who is blind/ low vision will benefit from this information.
But even if you don’t have coding experience you can always learn new skills, even if it means going back to school part-time while you continue your current job.
Wherever you live, there’s sure to be a local university or community college that offers computer science degrees or individual courses in the sciences, such as computer coding. And don’t overlook business courses, Hall says, which could give you an added advantage. All of these might also be offered as online courses from any university or available as continuing education classes.
Do you know someone already working in the field? Ask if they are willing to mentor you, by helping you understand your career options and deciding if coding is the right job for you. Even a conversation over coffee is a great place to start the decision-making process.
Take Advantage of the APH ConnectCenter Transition Hub
Recently introduced, the APH ConnectCenter Transition Hub is a wide-ranging repository for information and resources about transition programs across the United States. For example, you’ll find resources such as contact information for State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Agencies. According to Hall, these agencies can be helpful in guiding job-seekers of all ages in finding the right academic programs for their needs.
There’s also a searchable database of resources where you can look for programs by state and season – so if you’re eager to get started, you can find out which programs might be available sooner rather than later. With the second week of December being Computer Science Education Week, why not get a jump on a career move in the new year?
Be sure to check out the wide range of resources available on the APH CareerConnect website including our 2021 Coding Symposium hosted by APH and the California School for the Blind; and the Transition Hub which APH ConnectCenter launched in conjunction with the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), Vision Serve Alliance (VSA) and Perkins School for the Blind’s Perkins Compass Program. The Resources page also includes video conversations and a podcast with APH ConnectCenter’s partners about transition and the hub itself.
APH ConnectCenter and APH are grateful to The Gibney Family Foundation for their generous support of the APH ConnectCenter Transition Hub.