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Apple holds first in-school coding session for visually impaired students

Source: Austin American-Statesman

In an expansion to its Everyone Can Code educational initiative, Apple on Wednesday held its first in-school session for visually impaired students, helping participants write code that was then used to fly drones.

As part of the educational session, a team of Apple engineers visited the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired to teach students how to write code on an iPad using iOS accessibility features like VoiceOver, reports the Austin American-Statesman. A total of 17 students, from current high school juniors to recent graduates, participated in the event.

Though not mentioned by name, it appears Swift Playgrounds was employed to help participants learn the coding ropes. Students were said to have navigated 3D puzzles, likely through a digital character named "Byte," using code developed in an hour-long session.

Following the in-class experience, students were able to ply their new coding chops to a real-world scenario when Apple's team brought out a few Parrot drones. Swift Playgrounds has long been capable of communicating with external hardware via Bluetooth, but it was version 1.5 that introduced the ability to control drone movement.

"We see this as a way to get them interested in coding and realize this could open job opportunities," said Vicki Davidson, a technology teacher at the school. "Apple has opened up a whole new world for kids by giving them instant access to information and research, and now coding."

Today's educational session was held in preparation of a special presentation at South by Southwest 2018's Innovations in Accessibility event, where Apple director of accessibility Sarah Herrlinger will join faculty from the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired to discuss the Everyone Can Code program. Herrlinger's talk is scheduled for March 15.

Apple continues to build out its Everyone Can Code program, an initiative designed to teach students how to write code and develop apps with the open-source Swift programming language. Most recently, the company in December announced a partnership with Chicago Public Schools and City Colleges of Chicago that will deliver Swift education to nearly 500,000 students.