Vision-Aid and I-Stem partner to offer Advanced Technical Training Programs for the Visually Impaired

Vision-Aid and iStem are joining forces to offer a range of advanced STEM training initiatives to the visually impaired!! Inclusive Stem (I-Stem) is a group of young persons who are blind or visually impaired from India pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and careers.

Several of them have successfully completed under-graduate and graduate studies in Science, Math and Technology from leading institutions including Stanford, and secured employment in companies like Microsoft and Google.  Inspired by the challenges that many of them faced as STEM students in India, their goal is to make math, science and technical education more accessible and inclusive in the country. They do this through accessible technical training, mentorship, hands-on activities such as hackathons and internships, professional development webinars, technical R&D and a strong community.

Vision-Aid offers introductory courses in Computer programming to visually impaired students across India in semester-long courses. Four semesters have been successfully completed and over 50 students have been trained in this program which offers one-on-one high quality, free mentoring for the full semester to walk students through the intricacies of programming. Many students are blind and have no prior knowledge of programming, so this is an incredibly challenging program for both students and mentors, and it has been gratifying to see many students successfully complete the course despite its rigorous nature.

Now, starting in the Fall of 2018, on successful completion of Vision Aid’s training program, interested students who have performed well in the Vision-Aid course will be invited to join the I-Stem Advanced Technical Training Program. This program is a thorough computer science training program and attempts to prepare the candidates for the software industry. To do so, the program has several components.

  • Career coaching and consulting: All students will receive individualized coaching to determine what skills they need to develop to be successful in the industry. Post this, an individualized plan will be developed to help these students achieve these objectives.
  • Training: Vision-Aid and I-Stem have identified some fundamental computer science courses and has integrated them with leading MOOC’s such as edX and CoursEra. I-Stem will facilitate students to complete these courses by providing support, mentorship and a community of other students taking the same courses at the same time. The group will also provide supplementary material wherever these MOOC’S are inaccessible. By completing these courses, students will be able to get certificates from some of the best universities and companies in the world such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Microsoft, among others at no cost to them.
  • Community mentorship . Students will be a part of the Vision-Aid – I-Stem community which is jointly has over 100 members strong. As part of the community, there will be several opportunities to network with other members, some of whom are successful professionals in the industry.
  • Hackathon: I-Stem’s annual flagship event is the Inclusive Stem hackathon that is organized in partnership with Vision Aid and other organizations. The hackathon brings together blind developers, tech professionals from various corporates and sighted computer science students. The first hackathon was organized in Bangalore in January 2018 and saw the participation of 11 companies. On successful completion of the I-Stem Advanced Technical Training Program, students will be automatically eligible to participate in the hackathon which provides for a great opportunity to network with other blind developers and sighted technology professionals from across the country.
  • Connections with company partners: Vision-Aid and I-Stem working closely with several corporate partners, and while it is impossible to guarantee placement on the completion of the program, the group will strive to facilitate this as best as possible.
  • Internship opportunities : During and after the course, students will be eligible to work closely with the core I-Stem team and our community on some very interesting technical projects depending on an appropriate skill match.

We look forward to scaling this program to the benefit of the many talented visually impaired people we are serving.  Our thanks and gratitude to the many volunteers in both Vision-Aid and iStem who make this unique program possible through their dedication and efforts. 

The Vision-Aid Team

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