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This week, students around the world are participating in ‘Hour of Code‘ as part of Computer Science Education Week (December 3-8).

Learning to code can be life changing for students which is why I’d like to introduce you to our colleague who is an inspirational young coder.

17-year-old Alex is blind and is in his final year of high school. He is an outstanding self-taught coder and a highly valued member of the Edublogs team.

Alex became vision impaired during 9th grade and lost most of his sight within 6 months.

We invited Alex to share his story for the Student Blogging Challenge. We’re cross-posting it here as it is proving to be very fascinating and inspiring for teachers and students alike.

Over to Alex…

My name is Alex and I work as an accessibility developer and system administrator for Incsub which is the company behind Edublogs.

I started here at Incsub in May 2017 just days after I turned sixteen years old. I go to school in the day and work in the night.

Although this job can be demanding, I always love the challenge it offers me day by day.

Alex’s role with the company

One of my main roles is to ensure all servers are running properly and respond when automation fails. Basically, I make sure we stay online.

I have helped with building infrastructure components and hosting. This means I built the parts that make our servers work to host our sites and helped with moving networks of websites to our servers.

My other working time is spent ensuring all Incsub sites (including Edublogs, CampusPress and WPMU DEV) stay completely accessible to visually impaired users who rely on screen reading technology. A screen reader reads aloud the screen for people who can’t see or have other limitations.

This screen reader demo for digital accessibility video shows how a screen reader works and the importance of accessibility for the visually impaired.

Alex’s blindness

Although some would see visual impairment as something you can’t live with, I assure you it’s very possible.

When I first started at Incsub I was hired to provide live chat support for WPMU DEV (a WordPress company that’s part of Incsub). That would later translate into becoming an accessibility developer. (Developer is another word for coder or programmer).

I study our company sites weekly to ensure they are accessible to everyone. The sad news is most sites are not. Just because I cannot see very much, I cannot use a lot of websites.

Now I get to work every day to ensure all sites are accessible within Incsub as everyone deserves the same opportunity for accessing the web.

Below is a picture of me at a WordCamp event last year (that’s a WordPress conference. WordPress is the software that powers 30% of the web including Edublogs and CampusPress). I’m wearing the yellow and black hoodie.

Here is a picture of me at the 2018 WordCamp pictured with James Farmer (left), Ronnie Burt (right) and the WPMU DEV mascot.

James Alex and Ronnie at WordCamp

How Alex learned to code

Learning to code wasn’t all that challenging. I first started learning basic HTML in the 7th grade. It just took off from there.

I found WordPress, signed up for web hosting, and started learning the ways of web development.

It wasn’t until I started to code for accessibility development here that I really learned more of the advanced coding languages. I have taught myself HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, React JS, PHP, and Shell.

Moving on from accessibility development, I ran into system administration (upkeeping and configuring servers). I started learning with a company called Linux Academy. It’s an online program that allows you to learn Linux concepts, Cloud basics, Docker, and a whole host of other subjects.

I’m still very much in the practice stages but getting better every day. It’s cool what you can do with servers and don’t let your disability stand in your way.

A coding career

It is very important to me that the younger audiences get involved with coding. Without the younger generation, the sharing of information starts to drop. We need to keep this open sharing idea around. That way, everyone can learn from each other. It is truly the sharing of information that makes everyone smarter.

Getting the young involved in technology should increase the chance of them finding a really good paying job in the future, after graduation.

This video shows us how computer science is improving so many areas of our life.

More About Alex

Students taking part in the Student Blogging Challenge were invited to ask Alex a question. There was an overwhelming response and Alex has answered many questions about coding, using a computer, and his blindness in this post. 

About Hour of Code

Hour of Code is designed to introduce young people worldwide to the basics of coding and computer science through one-hour coding activities.

While these activities are promoted during Computer Science Education Week, they can be done at any time throughout the year.

Over to You!

As Alex has demonstrated, there are no barriers to forging a successful career in coding. His skills help to keep blogs and websites in schools around the world running smoothly.

Any comments or questions? Scroll down to find the comment box.

Meet Alex! He is 17 and has been working for our company for the last 1.5 years as a talented coder. Alex is also blind and relies on screen reader technology.  The Edublogger
Meet Alex! He is 17 and has been working for our company for the last 1.5 years as a talented coder. Alex is also blind and relies on screen reader technology.  The Edublogger

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