PERTH, Australia, January 25, 2005 - The first visually impaired students have graduated from the Cisco® Networking Academy® Program at Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Western Australia. The graduates have now become the first visually impaired Networking Academy course instructors in the world, teaching other blind and visually impaired students at Curtin University.
Kerry Hoath, who is blind, and Neil Hines, who has partial sight, both completed Cisco CCNA® associate-level certifications in August 2004. They were instructed by Iain Murray from the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Curtin University of Technology.
Mr Murray said; "This is a tremendous step forward for us, and Cisco has been very supportive, providing plenty of equipment to work with. Visually impaired students are not always given the opportunity to study technology and to walk away with an industry certification that places them on equal footing with their sighted peers. This is not a special course; it has exactly the same content as that taken by fully sighted students, which is a great confidence-booster for the students here."
Peter Scope, business development manager for Cisco Networking Academy in Australia, said; "Technology is the great equaliser for these students in terms of empowering them with independence and know-how. The Cisco access for the visually impaired project is extremely important to Cisco in assisting people who are often marginalised."
The program is a joint project among Cisco Systems®, Curtin University, and the Australian Association for the Blind of Western Australia (ABWA). Cisco so far has donated $A80,000 worth of equipment, and has provided free tuition to the visually impaired students. Curtin University is hosting the classrooms, while the ABWA is offering technical support and assistive technology to the program. Curtin University is Western Australia's largest university, with 31,000 students.
Cisco's participation in the program for the visually impaired is only one element of the Cisco Networking Academy Program throughout Australia and New Zealand at schools, tertiary education centres and private education facilities. There are more than 250 Cisco Networking Academies across Australia and New Zealand, helping to educate and train people in the basics of Internet networking, including routing, switching, network management, network software, wireless local-area networking and network security. More than 14,500 students are enrolled in the program.
Hines instructor said; "The course has been extremely beneficial both for me and for all of the students here. For the vision impaired to learn Cisco networking fundamentals is just so valuable because it allows disabled people to step into this environment and become equal with their peers in terms of skills and knowledge. CCNA opens doors for travel and employment, and most of all, provides confidence to all concerned."