Croydon Tutorial College

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Careers in IT and Computing for Blind Students

Careers in IT and Computing offer many attractive opportunities for blind and severely visually impaired students. Assistive technology is advancing rapidly and there are many areas in IT and Computing that do not involve computer graphics or working with visually rich graphical user interfaces (GUIs). As part of our joint initiative with First Technology Transfer, Croydon Tutorial College is working to develop courses and curricula for blind students that will provide the skills, knowledge, qualifications and confidence to compete for jobs in various professional areas of IT and Computing. Possible career and job opportunities do not, necessarily, require a degree in Computer Science, although many of FTTs advanced courses are at University Undergraduate or Postgraduate level and beyond. We also envisage providing support and encouragement to students who are struggling at School or University due to, for example, lack of support or an appreciation of the needs of blind and visually impaired students.

Traditionally, most blind computer users work on PC or laptops running some version of Microsoft Windows and use either JAWS or NVDA as their screen reader. JAWS, a veteran, screen reader, is expensive and, in many cases, when it comes to writing computer programs on a Microsoft Windows platform, NVDA is preferred to JAWS by many blind programmers. When it comes to Linux based systems, JAWS and NVDA do not run on these systems. A fairly widely used Linux screen reader is ORCA. Another possibility, for developing and testing computer programs is to make use of the Emacs editor together with Emacspeak.

Possible career paths in computing and programming

1. Careers in system and network administration - Including in the Cloud

  • System support
  • System administration
  • System configuration and design
  • Network administration
  • Network configuration and design
  • System security
  • Network security

Much of the work in these areas does not require having to work through a graphical computer interface. Many experienced administrators work using terminals and command line shells.
In the rapidly developing world of cloud computing areas of specialisation include
  • administration, monitoring, setup and maintenance of virtual machines
  • administration, monitoring, setup and maintenance of virtual networks
  • administration, monitoring, setup and maintenance of cloud resources - storage, service, etc.

Taking Microsoft Azure as an example
  • Virtual Linux machines can be administered using the Bash shell
  • Virtual resources - such as storage, machines, networks can be setup and administered via the AzureCLI (Command Line Interface)
  • In Windows Microsoft's Powershell is the shell interpreter of choice

2. Possible career paths in data analytics - working with relational and non-relational databases, data reporting, data analysis, data mining and machine learning.

  • Using Excel and relational databases such as Oracle, MySQL, PostgreSQL and SQL Server for data retrieval, data analysis and data reporting
  • Using R for statistical data analysis and reporting
  • Using Python Pandas for data analysis and reporting
  • Working with SAP HANA (a non relational database technology) for real time high performance data analysis and reporting

3. For those with mathematical abilities possible careers in actuarial science, finance and investment beckon

Typically these will involve studying appropriate university level courses.
An organisation such as Croydon Tutorial College / First Technology Transfer can provide specialist teaching, tutoring and mentoring to "bridge the gap" and lay the foundations that will allow blind students to study for such degrees and qualifications, where Universities have only limited support and experience.
One possible route is to study for level 4 and level 5 qualifications in Computer Science and IT, whilst, at the same time, mastering the use of tools such as Matlab, Excel and R, and then completing the final years of a recognised degree course.

4. Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Expert Systems

These disciplines are very much coding, logic and mathematics oriented. With modern screen and terminal readers it is possible to teach R programming, Matlab programming and Prolog programming. Additionally it is possible to teach AI and machine learning using Python as the underlying programming language. As more and more blind and visually impaired students become experts in these fields improvements in code reading involving the combination of code parsing with speech synthesis should start to appear.
For the truly focused it is possible to teach classical AI programming techniques base on Lisp and Clojure programming, for example. Additionally there are great opportunities in knowledge engineering and studying semantic web technologies

Follow up

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Enquiries line: 07739 642996
Send an email (removing spaces and replacing dot with . and at with @) to awe at croydontutorialcollege dot education