Project Access: Empowering Blind and Vision-Impaired Students to Fill the Cybersecurity Skills Gap

Black and white photo of a student wearing a mask and working on a computer. There is a instructor standing on the side looking at the student’s computer to provide guidance.

In response to the growing need for cybersecurity professionals in the United States, workforce-development nonprofit is running a program called Project Access, which aims to train more educators to deliver cybersecurity courses that are accessible to blind and vision-impaired students. The program, funded through the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)’s Cybersecurity Education and Training Assistance Program (CETAP) grant, holds a series of camps to help blind and vision-impaired students between the ages of 13 and 21 develop key cybersecurity skills. Cybersecurity refers to the practice of protecting computer systems, networks, and digital information from unauthorized access, damage, or theft by implementing various measures, such as encryption, firewalls, and user authentication, to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data in the digital realm.

Project Access, now in its second year, employs a virtual simulation environment named the Range to train students to respond to cyber attacks. Students use Windows-based laptops equipped with Linux distributions and pre-loaded assistive technology to learn text-based coding and practice Linux command lines.

The program was first piloted in 2017, in partnership with Virginia’s Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired (DBVI), which helped to develop a curriculum using assistive technologies. In its first year, the program had an encouraging outcome, with 94% of participants intending to study cybersecurity further or go directly into the cybersecurity workforce.

In the future, the program aims to train more teachers to lead cybersecurity training courses for blind and vision-impaired students, and to expand to other states, working towards a “train-the-trainer” model to increase its reach.

Get more details about Project Access on and check out the video below in which Dr. Chuck Gardner from discusses Project Access Training for a diverse future workforce.

Source: Government Technology

This blog was written mostly using chatGPT, a potential tool for increased accessibility. Do you think this is an appropriate use of chatGPT? Why or why not? Let me know!

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