As this year draws to a close, the 2023 cohort of eight from the iSchoolAfrica Deaf Developers Programme have graduated. This programme emerges as a pioneering effort, inviting businesses to embark on a journey that not only addresses the pressing need for tech talent but also aims to create more inclusive work environments.

In a stride toward creating a more inclusive society and workforce, iSchoolAfrica, an innovative education initiative, has launched the transformative Deaf Developers Programme funded by a grant from SAB Foundation, as well as support and funding from Core Group. This pioneering initiative is poised to empower unemployed Deaf youth with cutting-edge skills in iOS app development, opening pathways to future income and success, while fostering inclusivity within our society.

Initiatives like the iSchoolAfrica Deaf Developers Programme carry immense significance. They break down barriers, empower individuals and foster workplaces where every person is valued and included.

In a landmark development, coinciding with the official recognition of South African Sign Language as the 12th official language in South Africa, the Deaf Developers Programme stands as a beacon of hope, bridging the gap between skills, opportunities and inclusivity. The 2023 cohort of eight Deaf students immersed themselves in a comprehensive post-graduate certificate programme in app development, centred on Apple’s coding language, Swift. The programme not only equips these young talents with the vital skills needed for app development but also cultivates their confidence and competence to thrive in the competitive tech industry.

Michelle Lissoos, Director of iSchoolAfrica, articulated her enthusiasm, stating, “The iSchoolAfrica team has designed the Deaf Developers Programme to transform the narrative of disabled youth unemployment in South Africa. We are often asked what success will look like for this programme. There are a few levels of success. There is a critical need for app developers with disabilities to be creating applications that will solve barriers faced by people with disabilities. We hope to see apps created by our students to serve this community. We also hope that they will thrive as developers in accessible workspaces – and that biases are broken down for the employment of future youth with disabilities. We know that their success will not only benefit the disabled community but society as a whole. And that this is the first of many cohorts the Deaf Developers Programme will enable.”

The Deaf Developers Programme is a meticulously crafted nine-month journey that encompasses various elements aimed at ensuring holistic learning and practical application. Each participant is provided with a MacBook for the duration of the programme, ensuring they have the tools to participate effectively in their learning journey. This innovative programme employs a hybrid approach, seamlessly integrating South African Sign Language (SASL) interpreters, thereby ensuring clear and effective communication channels. As a testament to their growth, participants are poised to tackle industry-related projects upon completion of the course, applying their newfound skills and gaining hands-on experience.

Through the programme it came to light that there were certain specific coding terms that were not part of South African Sign Language. An innovation of this programme included the contribution of more than 100 new coding terms to our sign language dictionary.

iSchoolAfrica Disability Inclusion Programme Manager, Chelsea Williamson underscored the significance of this initiative, affirming, “Inclusion is not just a word; it’s an imperative. The Deaf Developers Programme opens doors for Deaf individuals to shine, enabling them to contribute their talents to the tech ecosystem.”

Corporate Partnership Opportunities

A partnership with the iSchoolAfrica Deaf Developers Programme offers corporates various ways of collaborating, with numerous benefits. Besides corporates receiving associated BBBEE points and tax certificates – the programme paves the way for employers to be contribute to their brand by leading the way in inclusion. There are different collaboration levels, from sponsoring coding at schools for learners with special needs, to bursaries for Deaf students to study app development, to tapping into this pipeline of highly qualified app developers. iSchoolAfrica offers comprehensive support to partner corporations, ensuring a seamless and inclusive transition for Deaf app developers in the workplace.

iSchoolAfrica invites corporates to be part of a ground-breaking initiative that addresses tech talent shortages and contributes to reducing unemployment rates among people with disabilities in South Africa.

For more information on the iSchoolAfrica Deaf Developers Programme and partnership opportunities, please contact Chelsea Williamson (iSchoolAfrica Disability Inclusion Programme Manager) on chelsea@ischoolafrica.com

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