Training Opportunities for Working in the IT Sector

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The following information primarily pertains to the training of blind and visually impaired individuals in the IT sector. And the requirements and regulations of regular training in this field also apply.

Is it Possible to Work in the IT Field?

If you’ve been working in this field as a blind or visually impaired individual for some time, you would immediately answer, “Yes!” However, from an objective standpoint, it’s important to differentiate. There are certainly many job roles within the IT sector that are accessible, while other areas may remain inaccessible to us in the long run. Therefore, I would like to answer the question with a “Yes, under certain conditions.”

Why Should I Pursue a Career in the IT Sector?

At the present moment, there are several compelling reasons to consider a career in the IT sector:

  1. Job prospects in the IT field are currently quite promising. This means that even applicants who might not stand a chance in other fields from the outset could find opportunities here. When a company is seeking software developers, or several of them, they are more likely to thoroughly review the few applications that come in, compared to professions where they receive a flood of applications.
  2. In many IT areas, working independently and competing with colleagues is possible. This means you genuinely have a chance at an equal job opportunity. For instance, it’s possible to take on data models and core software implementations while other colleagues focus on the user interface.
  3. IT professionals are closer to the action when it comes to the introduction of new software. While typists and other employees may only learn about software after it’s been decided upon and possibly already implemented, IT professionals may have a better chance of being involved in the process and influencing decisions. The same applies to workplace maintenance. Employers often want to avoid dealing with updates to the blind workplace, especially on the technical side. IT professionals can use technical facts and their expertise to ensure that the workplace receives regular maintenance.
  4. Empowerment through IT knowledge: At the end of an IT education, you will be better equipped to control your own computer and tailor applications to your specific needs. Given that IT has become a key technology for blind and visually impaired individuals, comprehensive IT knowledge holds significant importance. As an IT professional, you can contribute to increasing the number of accessible applications, thereby enhancing job opportunities for others once again.

What Education Options Are Available?

In essence, there are three possible forms of education, which will be detailed below:

  1. Pursuing a degree in Computer Science or a related field at a university or college.
  2. Apprenticeship in a regular workplace.
  3. Training in a vocational training center or a similar institution.

Ideally, all three paths should lead to opportunities for employment in the IT industry.

What Requirements Must be Met?

In addition to the educational prerequisites (appropriate academic qualifications), from the perspective of blind or visually impaired individuals, the following skills are necessary:

  1. Proficient or at least very competent use of assistive tools: It makes no sense to embark on an education (especially in the IT field) if you do not have a strong command of your assistive tools. The pace of education is too fast, and a wide range of content is covered, so a solid foundation in assistive technology usage is essential.
  2. Self-assured and honest demeanor: There are still many hurdles and barriers to overcome in all of the above-mentioned pathways. Without a good dose of self-confidence, they can become insurmountable obstacles. This includes, for instance, repeatedly telling an instructor, “Please read aloud what you’ve written on the board.” It may sound mundane, but it can often be challenging and frustrating in practice. Honesty is also crucial: in all types of education, there are applications and areas where a blind or visually impaired trainee may face technical difficulties, such as when a screen reader does not support Java applications. The trainee should be capable of communicating these issues openly from the outset.
  3. Strong mathematical and abstract reasoning skills: Sighted individuals often rely on visual representations and illustrations in many contexts. These may not be feasible or as informative for us. Therefore, having the ability to conceptualize many relationships purely in abstract terms can be immensely helpful. For example, when a group is working on a class model for software, it will only be possible to follow the group and contribute effectively with a strong grasp of abstract concepts.

The Pathways of Education

Studying at a University or College

If possible, pursuing a degree through a university or college is the best option. This approach offers a competitive qualification and places you in an educational environment without immediate financial pressures. By this, I don’t mean self-sufficiency but rather the fact that universities and colleges typically provide opportunities for individual support and assistance. Additionally, attaining a higher degree can positively impact career prospects and salary. You can pursue your studies at a regular university or college, where there may be limited specialized support for blind or visually impaired students. This is likely to be the most challenging path because all examination procedures, alternatives for labs, etc., need to be negotiated directly between students and instructors. Furthermore, there are now several universities and colleges that have what’s called a “Visual Impairment Center” affiliated with them. Employees undertake the preparation of examination and training documents, consolidate experience and possible alternatives. Currently , there are the following universities with a center for the visually impaired:

  • Dresden
  • Karlsruhe

The following colleges have Visual Impairment Centers:

  • FH Gießen-Friedberg

Training in a Regular Workplace

There are already apprentices who have completed their training in an IT company just like everyone else. This requires a significant commitment from all parties involved (the apprentice, the trainer, vocational school, etc.). Everyone involved should genuinely want this! For most technical challenges, which are typically the focus, solutions or alternatives can certainly be found. The chances of finding employment or even securing a permanent position are likely higher than with non-company-based training.

Training in a Vocational Training Center

If pursuing a degree or training in a regular workplace is not feasible, there is the option to undergo training in a vocational training center. However, this is the costliest option for the funding body. This path is well-suited for those who may not fully meet the prerequisites mentioned earlier or for whom immediate integration might not be advisable. However, it’s essential to note that integration becomes inevitable, especially after completing the training. Currently, the following institutions offer various IT training programs:

  • BFW Würzburg: IT Business Specialist
  • BBW Chemnitz: IT Business Specialist, IT Specialist for Application Development, IT Specialist for System Integration
  • BBS Nuremberg: IT Business Specialist

Who Can Provide Assistance with Questions

One of the central tasks of BFG IT is to share knowledge and provide assistance to others, including apprentices, trainers, and more. This also applies explicitly to funding bodies and rehabilitation advisors who may be unsure about the suitable training format for a candidate. In general, it is advisable, whenever possible, to advance one’s education, ideally achieving a high school diploma. This grants a candidate the option to pursue any of the three pathways and enhances the chances of achieving a successful outcome overall.

According to some trainers, IT companies tend to prefer candidates with a high school diploma for apprenticeships because these programs involve extensive curriculum coverage and require a high degree of independent thinking and work. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us through the link on the homepage.

In which professions can blind and visually impaired individuals work, and in which ones are they unable to?

At this point, we aim to compile what is currently known as possible or impossible. Since each company often names job profiles differently, it may be necessary to read between the lines. The contact form and mailing list are also available to assist in this regard.

Job profiles in which work opportunities are known:

  1. Software Developer: Blind and visually impaired individuals can be effective members of a team with other programmers or independently manage a project, as long as they primarily work within the data model of applications. Designing interfaces has proven to be less competitive, even with some support from screen readers, such as in Visual Basic. However, it is possible to place the necessary elements on forms and later have a colleague arrange them.
  2. Network Administrator: Several administration tools are accessible to blind and visually impaired individuals. However, accessibility varies depending on the specific remote management software in use. Inaccessible solutions may have alternatives through tools like Putty, Remote Desktop, and others. Since administrators often use scripts for many tasks, there are likely opportunities in this field.
  3. Database Administrator: Many databases, such as Oracle and PostgreSQL, offer command-line tools in addition to graphical interfaces. Database administration should be possible, even if different tools, such as complex SQL scripts, are used, rather than navigating an inaccessible interface, especially in the case of Oracle.
  4. Technical Support: Depending on the tools used, a support role may be possible, similar to other information and assistance areas. However, unlike administration, there appears to be little room for alternative tools in this domain. Therefore, each individual case must be assessed.

Professions with little to no known work opportunities:

  1. System Administrators with OS Installation: Finding suitable work opportunities that are compatible with screen readers seems challenging, especially when involving hardware replacement and the basic setup of workstations. Viability depends on individual cases and potential workarounds, such as fully automated OS installations.
  2. Software Development with Extensive Interfaces or Graphics Solutions: In cases where software development involves applications like CAD software, a blind or visually impaired colleague may not be able to thoroughly test many functions in detail. It’s possible that there may not be enough algorithms left for implementation, potentially rendering it unsuitable for their involvement.
  3. Software Testers for Diverse Systems: Software testers typically evaluate various projects within the company. It’s relatively easy for applications to be inaccessible and, therefore, unsuitable for blind or visually impaired software testers. Another challenge lies in efficiently executing tests and documenting results, often involving mass processing.