Getting an MCSE on Windows 2000 is hard enough when all your senses are working fine. But when one of them isn’t—especially sight—the task is doubly or triply hard.
That’s the challenge facing many students at iTec, a Little Rock, Arkansas-based
company that started a program doing just that last year.
The catalyst for the program, according to Shannon Goins, director of
training for iTec, was when “some people came in off the street and wanted
training and were totally blind. Their complaint was ‘no one wants to
accommodate us, no one knows how to accommodate us.’”
Neither did iTec. After some research, they partnered with Lions World
Services for the Blind, also a Little Rock company, to offer MCSE training.
The first class of three students graduated in November 2001, the second
one started in August, and the third class is scheduled to get under way
in February. The classes are nine to 10 months long.
This one deserves a “WYW” simply because of the name:
Tweak3D—Your Freakin’ Tweakin’ Source. But it’s got
more than a name; it’s got modification pointers listed
for Windows XP, Linux, overclocking a CPU, various computer
games, and a whole lot freakin’ more.
It takes about four times as long to train their blind or severely visually
impaired students as it does students with normal vision. The reason,
said Goins, is that “It’s not so much they’re having difficulty understanding,
but learning how to navigate. They have to know how many times to tab
to go to a certain thing…so that if I say everybody set up a (DHCP) scope,
they need to learn how to do this efficiently.”
Blind students use a program called JAWS that reads the screen information
to the user. Goins said to get an idea of what it would be like to train
for your MCSE and be blind, “turn off your monitor and throw away your
Taking the certification tests also presents unique challenges. One blind
student who just barely failed 70-222, Migrating from NT to 2000, had
a lot of trouble with the large number of drag-and-drop questions and
diagrams on the test. Relying on his special reader doesn’t help much
on those types of questions.
All three students (one is blind and two are severely visually impaired)
from the first graduating class are still working toward their MCSEs,
and are hopeful of obtaining them soon. In the meantime, they have all
reached their most important goal: employment. All three have secured
networking jobs with the Internal Revenue Service.
When it comes to finding IT work for blind students, Goins said it’s
been a “mixed bag” so far. “When we first call and talk to them, some
places have said ‘no way can we do this.’ We’re also trying to find employers
that have positions where the students can fit in and not cause massive
changes for employer,” which can be difficult, Goins explained. But she
is starting to see some changes. “Initially there’s a lot of resistance
(by employers), but once they have initial exposure to what they’ll need,
it’s not a problem.”
As for the students themselves, it’s opening up a whole new world. Often,
the blind work at lower-level jobs, which some employers think is all
they’re useful for. Having an MCP or better, Goins said, can obliterate
that perception. “Students tell us they’re so excited to see something
at such a high professional level being offered to them. It’s a lot harder,
but they can do it.”
Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.