Re: Searching for blind programmer to start a school for blind programmers

  • From: Bill Cox <waywardgeek@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: programmingblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 8 Apr 2011 09:44:08 -0400

Hi, Ken.  I think you were the first person to help me on my own road
towards dealing with loss of central vision.  As I recall, you had
some good advice and also introduced me to Sina, who as luck would
have it, lives near me, and knows a huge amount about coding with
vision impairments.

So, I think that is an example of coders with vision impairments
helping each other.  That seems to be what this list is for.  I fully
agree with your point about studying along side people without vision
impairments.  Maybe the idea of making this a college that would
replace what a student would do otherwise is a mistake.  A set of
programming and technical courses is not a substitute for a
traditional college experience.

Still, it seems to me that its difficult to find on-line programming
courses for the blind and vision impaired.  Something like only 1 in 5
blind people in the US have full time jobs.  And, while this list is
great and there are many talented blind coders here, it seems to me
that the numbers are far too low, especially since programming is
career for a blind person.  It seems to me that a social entrepreneur
might have an opportunity here to help make the world a better place,
so long as they consider their pay-off primarily in terms of helping
people rather than getting rich.

So, I'm tempted to suggest that such a venture should not attempt to
work through traditional education channels, nor try to offer a
recognized degree.  Instead, it should measure its success in terms of
decent jobs found for it's students.

The nature of so many posts I see over in Vinux land make be believe
that there are in fact many blind people out there who want to learn
to code, and that some subset of these people have the potential to
become good coders with good careers coding.  Is it possible to form
an on-line teaching organization of people with vision impairments to
fill this need, without side-tracking the blind into skipping the
whole normal college experience?


On Thu, Apr 7, 2011 at 1:08 PM, Ken Perry <whistler@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> I have to say this even though I think there is a place for what you're
> thinking of.
> I hate sepertive schools.  One of the things that made me a good programmer
> was competing against the people I would be competing against in the work
> world In the academic world.
> The salt Lake community college had a class run by novel that taught blind
> people to code for Novel OS but I found the students that came out of their
> knew a single thing and not very well.
> Now with that said if the standards are high enough a school like this could
> be a good benefit but you have to be careful not to dumb down both the speed
> of learning or quality thereof.  Of course that is true for all schools.
> One last thing though that the regular schools taught me.  That is part of
> life as a blind coder is finding ways to cope with problems that you run
> into.  If you have things handed to you, you might not be as affective when
> you get out in the work world.
> Ken
> Ken
> -----Original Message-----
> From: programmingblind-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
> [mailto:programmingblind-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Bill Cox
> Sent: Thursday, April 07, 2011 12:03 PM
> To: programmingblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Subject: Searching for blind programmer to start a school for blind
> programmers
> This is still in the dumb-idea phase, and I don't have any funding
> lined up to get this started.  That said...
> I have not been able to find any on-line school for teaching blind
> people to become professional programmers.  I feel the world needs
> such an organization.  I am not able to start such a school myself,
> but I would be interested in assisting social entrepreneurs in
> starting such a venture.  I it would best be implemented as a
> for-profit social entrepreneurial venture.  You can read about social
> entrepreneurs here:
> I'm thinking it could be a Low Profit Corporation (LPC) founded to run
> the school for a profit.  Everyone hired in teaching or management
> would be vision impaired or blind.  Students would attend classes
> on-line, and could be anywhere in the world.  Classes would not be
> free (maybe $1,000 per 1-semester course?).  Students who are too poor
> to pay would be expected to do well in their courses and make up their
> fees by assisting teaching of those courses in later semesters.  They
> might also be required to work for an associated consulting company to
> earn tuition.  Students would be encouraged to help mentor each other
> in any case.
> Associated with the school could be a software consulting services
> company.  The company would only hire vision impaired programmers, and
> students wanting to work for the company could take classes designed
> to train them in the skills they'll need.  The company might encourage
> it's employees to spend one day a week on FOSS projects of their
> interest, which hopefully would include improving accessibility.
> Rough numbers to back up the idea:  There are around 15 million people
> with "severe" vision impairments in the US.  Roughly half of those
> people are too old.  Half of the rest may have other impairments that
> would prevent them from becoming programmers.  In the general
> population, there are 1 programmer out of every 500 people in the US.
> I would expect a ratio at least that high among the blind, or about
> 7,500 professional programmers in the US alone.  If we took 20 years
> to train that many, it'd be 375 new students per year, and assuming a
> two year program, we'd have 750 students.  If only half paid the class
> fees, but took three classes at a time (a full load), that'd be
> $3,000*750*2 = $4.5 million per year.  My kids go to a school which
> happens to have about 750 students and a budget of just over $4
> million per year, and that includes paying for a school.  So, that
> math seems to work out, but we're not talking about anyone making a
> billion dollars in this effort.  This is not a VC-fundable idea, but
> it might attract funding from groups that invest in socially
> beneficial startups.
> I know a couple of good candidates to start this school, and one might
> be interested in actually doing it.  Are there any good blind or
> vision impaired people you guys could recommend for me to talk to?  I
> think the key would be finding the right couple of guys.
> Thanks,
> Bill
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