CYBER.ORG Launches Project Access, a National Effort to Increase Access to Cybersecurity Education for Students with Disabilities
June 28, 2022
CYBER.ORG announced the kickoff of Project Access, a program designed to expand access to cybersecurity education for blind and vision-impaired students between the ages of 13-21 who are in pre-employment transition (Pre-ETS). Through the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s Cybersecurity Education and Training Assistance Program (CETAP) grant, CYBER.ORG is pioneering a series of camps this summer in Arkansas, Maine, Virginia, and Michigan to introduce blind and vision-impaired students to key cybersecurity topics, help them develop cybersecurity skills, and explore the possibility of a career in a growing industry.
The United States currently faces a shortfall of nearly 714,000 cybersecurity professionals, and it has never been more important to invest in training the next generation of students of diverse backgrounds and abilities to fill this gap. It’s CYBER.ORG’s mission to introduce all K-12 learners, regardless of background or ability, to cybersecurity education. Until Project Access, there hasn’t been a dedicated program to teach cybersecurity to blind and visually impaired students.
Building an accessible curriculum around cybersecuirty
In collaboration with Virginia’s Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired (DBVI), CYBER.ORG piloted the program in 2017 to develop a blind and vision-impaired accessible curriculum that educators could use to teach cybersecurity and help students build confidence in the field. Virginia’s DBVI programming has resulted in 94% of participating students planning to study cybersecurity in college, pursuing cybersecurity credentials or going directly into the cybersecurity workforce.
Using nonvisual techniques, the program is accessible to students who don’t have prior computer or technology experience and offers those with secondary disabilities hands-on learning opportunities and STEM career exploration.
Preparing students for a lucrative career in cybersecurity
“We are thrilled to kickoff Project Access and continue to build on the success we’ve had with Virginia’s blind and vision-impaired students to increase cybersecurity literacy and access to cybersecurity education nationwide,” said Dr. Chuck Gardner, Associate Director at CYBER.ORG. “By lowering the barriers to cybersecurity education, we have created a first-of-its-kind curriculum to empower students to build confidence and a skillset in cybersecurity, while working toward careers in the industry.”
With guidance and oversight from CYBER.ORG, local teachers will lead the Linux and Robotics summer camps in Arkansas, Maine, Virginia, and Michigan. Students in the Robotics camps will learn basic coding skills, bot assembly, circuit construction, and best practices for cyber safety applications. Students in the Linux camps will learn how networks and web servers operate, how to set up a server, the structure of computer networks, and how to investigate whether websites are 508 compliant. Students in all camps will have the opportunity to meet and learn from cybersecurity professionals.
“We are always striving to try and find opportunities for students that help shatter the misconceptions that these students and others have about their blindness and their career prospects,” said Carol Jenkins, Deputy Director of Services at the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (NCBVI). “When we find strong programming in the STEAM field where our population is so often underrepresented, we embrace it enthusiastically. CYBER.ORG workshops and curriculums are designed intentionally and allow for the independence of every student.”
This year’s camps are taking place in four different states:
Virginia Linux Camp – June 27 to July 1
Arkansas Robotics Camp – July 18 to July 22
Maine Robotics Camp – July 25 to July 29
Michigan Linux Camp – August 1 to August 5
“Our partnership with CYBER.ORG began the development of a fully accessible cyber curriculum,” said Tish Harris, the Pre-ETS and Career Pathways Coordinator at the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired. “We are confident that Project Access will inspire more opportunities for students with disabilities in different states to access and experience cybersecurity training.”
As Project Access continues to expand, CYBER.ORG is looking for other partner states interested in setting up accessible cybersecurity camps for blind and vision-impaired students.
CYBER.ORG, formerly the National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center (NICERC), is a cybersecurity workforce development organization that targets K-12 students with cyber career awareness, curricular resources, and teacher professional development. The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) supports CYBER.ORG through a grant from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to develop and distribute cybersecurity education content to educators across the country at no cost. Currently, more than 25,000 teachers across all 50 states and four U.S. territories are enrolled in the CYBER.ORG content platform.
Featured image: Inside Creative House, iStock.