Thank you to everyone who was so interested in reading Alex’s story on our post about coding a few weeks back.
To recap, Alex is a 17 year old student. For the last 1.5 years he has been attending high school during the day and working for Edublogs (and our sister companies) at night. When Alex was in ninth grade he became blind. He relies on screen reading technology to use his computer.
Alex enjoyed going through all your comments! When we hit 250, we closed the comments on the post so it didn’t get too overwhelming.
There were many comments that were similar and we invited Alex to respond to as many as possible below.
Alex’s Responses To Your Questions
How did you get started being a professional coder?
It all started with a basic HTML coding class in the 7th grade. Then it was all learning from other online tutorials and creating things for personal use.
What made you want to do coding? Were you always interested in it?
I was not always interested in coding or technology. I actually did not like technology for the longest time until I received a technology class in school which showed me the power of computers.
What’s your favorite part of coding?
Being able to see your creations come to life right in front of you. Knowing that I can fix problems to keep sites running.
How do you motivate yourself to keep going when coding?
No motivation required. Just get up and go to work.
How do you memorize all the codes?
Practice. It will be as easy as riding a bike after a while. Some languages such as PHP you will probably never remember completely. If all else fails, read the manual.
How do you know when you’ve made a typo or a mistake when typing?
When the site no longer loads or my syntax checker catches it.
Do you ever do coding in your spare time (when you’re not working)?
How do you deal with problems and bugs in your code?
Analyze and fix. Use syntax checkers and try to find errors before code goes into production. Using a series of continuous integration deployment tools can also help catch errors.
How long did you have to practice to get good at coding?
You will never stop practicing. Every day is a practice situation in my opinion.
What is the coolest coding you have done or what work are you most proud of?
Making CampusPress and Edublogs accessible is pretty cool.
Will you continue to code in the coming years when you finish school?
What coding programs are best to learn first?
Start out with HTML and CSS. Very simple and lots of documentation/articles around the internet to guide you.
Do you use binary code?
No. I once wrote an entire math assignment in binary code. It was over a bet in the 5th grade that I could not create a math problem my teacher couldn’t solve. I won that battle.
Do you have a favorite command (in code), if so, what is it and what does it do?
The WordPress PHP function wp_die(). It sounds really evil, but read the docs. 🙂
What would you say to a person that would like to code but doesn’t have the right resources at home to begin?
If you have an internet connection and Notepad++ you have all you need. Windows or Mac is perfect. If you only have a mobile device, find an app. There are lots out there.
Do you still like coding as much as you did before your disability?
Yes. Nothing has changed there. Coding is not easier but my liking for it has not changed.
Have you ever done any coding on Swift Playgrounds?
Why did you start coding in grade 7?
Coding just happened to catch my interest then. I never did anything big with websites before the 7th grade.
How much coding do you have to do in a day to make sure that everything is running smoothly?
Just depends on the day. Not all code is ensuring things stay running, sometimes it is simply new features.
Do you ever code games?
What is your favorite form of coding to code? (HTML, Java, Shell, etc.)?
PHP and Shell are probably my top two favorites. You can do a lot with server-side code. jQuery is also really fun, helps to make web page elements accessible.
Using A Computer Questions
How do you use your computer as a blind person?
A basic install of Windows 7 Professional with Non-Visual Desktop Access (NVDA).
I know that screen readers will tell you what you’ve coded but do you have any way of actually visualizing what it looks like when compiled?
Thankfully I don’t need to deal with code compiling. In general, sometimes I do get some errors just because I cannot see out of place characters. It can be a tedious process at times.
Are you able to customize the voice on your screen reader or is it all the same?
I listen with a male voice at a very fast rate. I usually leave the rate slider at 90% but I can go as high as 100% maxed out.
How do you know which letter/number you are pressing on the keyboard? Do you have a special keyboard?
Nope. I remember the keys and their locations. No vision required for typing really fast.
How do you know if the website is broken, or does someone tell you or do you figure it out on your own?
Sometimes I am notified, sometimes I figure it out on my own. Really depends on the situation.
General Blindness Questions
What happened to your vision?
I wish I knew. Still proves to be a pretty big medical mystery why my remaining bit of vision dissolved.
How do you do other activities (like eating) without sight?
Theoretically, you should always know where your mouth is. If you can miss it, you have yourself a problem. Is it easier? No. Is it impossible? No.
Do you have any trouble in daily life due to being blind?
Sure. Walking down the sidewalk is much more challenging than it used to be. Especially hate the silent cars.
Have your other senses grown stronger?
Yes. Hearing and smell certainly seem to be stronger, or more used anyway.
What kind of visual impairment do you have? (Can you see shadows? Colors?)
I can see light and sometimes basic movements.
Have you learned braille?
I have known Braille since the 2nd grade.
If you were able to see what would you want to see the most?
Everything, there is no one thing I would like to see the most.
Do you have friends who are blind?
Has anyone thought you couldn’t succeed?
Lots of people. It is pretty common in our world.
When you found out you were going blind how did it feel? How did your friends react?
They were all visually impaired as well, no worries there.
What was the hardest thing to adapt to when you became blind?
Doing things away from my computer.
When you first found out about your condition did you take some sort of class that helps you learn how to do your everyday things without seeing?
I wish. I learned a lot on my own. As a senior in high school, I am now receiving a lot more help in this area.
Was it ever hard at school when it is reading time?
Nope, audio books are great.
Have you ever been bullied?
Yep. Just got to ignore.
Is it hard to do your school work and work for Incsub?
Challenging at times, but I don’t receive much homework. It all kind of fits together. I think Incsub probably keeps me busier than homework.
Do you have other hobbies?
I like to drive WaveRunners, ice skate, and pretty much everything else you would never expect a blind person to do.
What is your favorite and least favorite subject in school?
My favorite is English. My least favorite is math.
What will happen if you don’t make websites accessible?
I have not had to find this out yet, hope it never happens.
How fast can you type?
About 150 words per minute.
Why did you choose to work for Incsub?
Awesome company. Started at the bottom and worked my way up to where I am now.
What are the benefits of your job?
Great pay, work from anywhere, work any time, and a few complementary benefits to go along.
Who are some important people at your work?
Everyone is important in their own way.
How many conventions have you been to?
Do you consider yourself a role model to those who want to learn coding and those are being also vision impaired?
I don’t know if I’d say that, I’m just somewhat good at what I do.
What is one piece of advice you have for people that want to reach their goals even if they have an obstacle in their way?
Keep pushing. Nothing can stop you if you don’t let it.
What is your favorite sport?
What do you think your life would be like if you didn’t code?
It would be very boring.
We thank Alex for sharing these interesting insights into his life and his job as a coder!
Any comments? What surprised or interested you the most? We’d love to hear from you.