Tech-Guided Vocational School for People with Vision Disabilities Opens in Denver

Asia-Pacific, Assistive Technology, March 15 2017

DENVER, CO: Mike Hess is on a vision quest to help people who are blind or have low vision in Colorado and throughout the country to obtain the same employment opportunities as those who can see, though he cannot.

Hess, the founder and executive director of the Blind Institute of Technology (BIT), along with Salesforce, Colorado Technology Association, the St. Vrain Valley School District, Downtown Denver Partnership, The Commons on Champa, and ITESI Global, P.B.C., have their eyes fixed on providing accessibility-first training to an underserved population of jobseekers.

Together they’ve formed a public-private partnership to help BIT start a new vocational school for BVI people, with an aim to train unemployed or under-employed students with vision disabilities in high-demand jobs. “Our mission,” Hess said, “is to prepare people who are blind or have low vision, particularly those with IT and other technical interests and the employers who hire them for long-term success. We’ve made substantial progress since our inception in 2013, but are asking public and private business leaders to rethink what BIT believes is a narrow conversation about diversity and inclusion in the workplace.”

What does the new school, called the BIT Academy, mean to students?

“I live in Toledo, Ohio, and traveled more than 1,000 miles to participate in this new program,” said Ethan Holliger. “BIT and its partners have presented me with an exciting vocational training opportunity to earn my certification as a Salesforce administrator and learn interview skills that will help me reach my career aspirations.”

The BIT Academy opened its doors last week, initially offering curriculum that enables students to become certified Salesforce administrators and learn soft skills that upon graduation will aid them in securing jobs in high-demand IT and sales support positions. The training programs are eight-weeks long and free to people who are blind and other people with disabilities.

BIT Academy graduates will be eligible for career placement through the Blind Institute of Technology and ITESI Global, P.B.C., a key contributor that’s lending its vocational training expertise to help students hone their interpersonal skills and prepare them for job interviews with mock interviews. ITESI Global, P.B.C. also has helped BIT put together the BIT Academy.

“Advances in tech have made roles accessible to many, including talented professionals who are blind or have low vision,” said Andrea Young, President and CEO, Colorado Technology Association. “The need for skilled tech workers continues to grow, and the Blind Institute of Technology has proven that workers who are blind or have low vision perform at the same high level as the rest of the workforce. We’re proud to partner with BIT, which has made incredible strides in driving diversity and inclusion within the tech workforce.”

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