Coding for the Blind and the Elderly

At theCoderSchool most of the students are your typical kids between the ages of 7-18. The typical CoderSchool students have a passion for learning and are excited about what they’re learning. This article however is not about them. It’s about a couple of very unique CoderSchool students that have a passion and determination to learn that goes far beyond any normal expectations.

Whether you’re a coder or not, I’m sure you have some level of appreciation for the effort it takes to learn to code. It’s just like learning anything worthwhile; it will take time and much effort. I’m also sure that everyone reading this has probably at least used a computer, unless perhaps you’re Amish. And even then, I understand, you probably have still used a computer but may not have owned one. So regardless, pretty much everyone can envision themselves using a computer. Now try picturing using a computer without any sight. That’s right; it’s suddenly not so easy to even imagine how you would accomplish the simplest of navigation on the screen. Now take it one step further and try to imagine what it might be like to learn to code without being able to see. There’s one exceptional student at theCoderSchool who’s blind and learning to code in Python. I don’t think words can describe his amount of desire and determination to be able to do this along with his Code Coach®. It actually takes a tremendous amount of effort as a team for both student and Code Coach®. There are unimaginable hurdles that most simply take for granted as they don’t have to deal with them.

Hurdles of being a Blind Student Learning to Code

When our Code Coach®, Jason Mortensen, first started teaching this student it was all new to him. He quickly realized the most simple techniques and strategies wouldn’t work. Using the internet is an obvious source of information for everyone nowadays. Jason quickly found that it’s not that useful when having to use a text to audio translation as it takes quite long to render and read and when there’s an image it doesn’t work so well since images can’t be translated. Didn’t think of that one right? No one probably would unless forced to deal with it.  Even trying to use the language cheat sheets isn’t that straightforward as the descriptions and code are usually delineated by using color. What he ended up doing is creating custom cheat sheets with clear labels saying things like “This is a description” or “This is code”.    Picking his language was also very important as you don’t want to pick one that’s too syntax regulated as your starting point. Suddenly the phrase nested curly brackets is pretty overwhelming. And again, these are generally delineated using underlines in text editors which is another visual indicator. Even dealing with spaces can present a problem as most text translators will treat a group of spaces as just one and if you know Python, the number of spaces preceding a line of code is critical. I mention the hurdles above and these are just a small sample to give you a clue as to what they are overcoming together to teach and learn to code. They’re going down the path of working on logical, mathematical, and text based games mainly and making great strides.  I had the privilege to shadow one of their sessions and was awestruck by both the student’s and Code Coach’s® passion, desire, patience, and care towards achieving their goal.

82 Year Old Student Learning to Code

The second unique CoderSchool student is an 82 year old gentleman who has now decided he wants to learn to code. Can you believe that? I couldn’t at first either, but it’s true. He’s 82 years young and wants to learn about web development so he can build his own website and blog. It just goes to show you with emphasis that it’s truly never too late to learn to code. Coincidentally our same Code Coach®, Jason, is also teaching him. He is a very unique student as is the student mentioned above. But they’re quite similar in a lot of ways too. They both have an amazing passion and determination to learn to code. Neither will let anything get in their way. And I do mean anything. If being blind or 82 years old doesn’t stop you, I don’t think anything will. Jason faces a different set of challenges with this student, but applying the same custom Code Coaching® methodology he is able to create engaging lessons that are allowing his 82 year old student to learn and make progress. If he were using a one size fits all curriculum it certainly would never work for both of these students.

Our Code Coaches® Learn too by Teaching

Code Coach® Jason Mortensen

Code Coach® Jason Mortensen

These two students have had as much if not more of an effect on their Code Coach®, Jason, as he has had on them. All of our Code Coaches® learn from teaching their students in the natural way as there’s no better way to hone your skills than by teaching them to someone else. In the case of these two students though, Jason has been able to gain an appreciation and respect he probably would not be able to unless given the opportunity to teach these two. Jason now has such an appreciation for things he always took for granted before like just being able to see the computer screen. He said this appreciation will hopefully last the rest of his life and gives him a better perspective on how he goes about dealing with other challenges in his own life.