KUALA LUMPUR: Students at Penang’s St Nicholas Home, for the visually impaired, will soon be able to learn computer programming.
From the first quarter of next year, they will be able to attend free classes on computer programming. Current courses teach them how to prepare documents and spreadsheets using a PC.
The new classes are to expand the home’s IT training syllabus and to widen job opportunities for the visually impaired in the country.
According to David Hathaway, head of the IT department at St Nicholas, there are limited job opportunities for the blind now and many tend to become masseuses.
“We hope that with this new skill, they will be encouraged to seek out more varied employment opportunities, and we’ll have computer programmers from here who have overcome their physical disability,” he said.
Hathaway was speaking on the sidelines of the Microsoft Accelerating Asia Pacific Summit here.
St Nicholas intends to start by teaching the students how to use Python, a programming language that is also used by search-engine giant Google Inc.
“Python is relatively easy to learn and there are a lot of tutorials online. It also comes with a free screen-reader program that the visually-impaired can use to browse the Internet or read documents on a computer,” Hathaway said.
He said there are also plans to offer training for other computer-programming languages, such as C#, visual Basic.Net and Java, but the main hurdle for the home is to find trainers and resources.
“We hope that some of the trainees who excel in the class will help train the others,” he said.
To begin, St Nicholas has two trainers — Hathaway himself and an IT graduate who has experience in Java programming.
St Nicholas also hopes to equip its trainees with Internet marketing skills and will set up a class to teach that skill next year.
“We want to have our trainees set up any kind of soft product business, like being an e-book reseller, for example, or using affliate programmes to generate an income,” Hathaway said.
He said St Nicholas is in touch with the Penang e-Community Club whose members are familiar with e-commerce and will be able to share tips on how to set up a successful Internet business.
Like the computer-programming course, the Internet-marketing course will also be offered for free. St Nicholas also plans to offer these courses online, so that it can reach out to the visually handicapped in the other states.
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