needing to be good at math in order to work for Apple

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hi guys. i'm trying to enroll in a computer science program at my community college. my goal is to work for apple's accessibility team. i'm just wondering for those of you that have degrees in computer science how did you guys get through classes such as linear algebra and calculus? I didn't exactly take algebra in high school. And I think in linear algebra you have to graph equations I'm totally blind I don't know of any other blind people who've had to graph equations. so i'm trying to figure out how to make the math classes accessible. i'm feeling really discouraged like maybe I'm not smart enough to get this degree.



Submitted by Chris Smart on Tuesday, October 25, 2016

I'm sorry you weren't able to take algebra in high school. Were you not given the opportunity? Or, you were, but bought into the "math is too difficult for blind people" myth? Or, you didn't have the support available to help ensure your success?

Anyway, you can absolutely do this, if you have lots of support and are prepared to work.

Hopefully, you are a strong Braille reader, including Nemeth code.
Also, you should have good spacial concepts. If someone said "that is a 60 degree corner" or "that curve is shaped like the letter Z" would you have any trouble picturing it in your mind? I don't mean visually; I mean having a clear idea of that shape. Those are just examples.

Blind people can absolutely take algebra, calculus, and lots more, with adequate support. I was in high school in the early 1990's, so the following may no longer be relevant.

First, textbooks were usually twenty volumes or more, not counting supplemental volumes containing tactile graphics. Hopefully today, texts can be loaded onto a Braille display or similar device, to cut down on this sort of bulk. Can someone confirm or deny if that is the case nowadays? You'll still need a way to create and feel raised-line drawings, or some tactile representation of things.

Second, I had someone in class with me, quickly Brailling example problems while the teacher filled three or more blackboards quickly. This was key. The amount of material each day was more than I could reasonably expect a classmate to whisper to me, so I could try to Braille it myself. The same person was also able to write out my test answers in print for the teacher.

Nowadays, push for getting the professor's lecture notes and other materials electronically, in accessible form. For all I know, books may be available in alternate formats.

For other people reading this, is there a way to work on problems on the computer and simply print out test answers now, or will the original poster still need someone to do this by hand, in Braille, and have a scribe write things out in print?

Fast-forwarding a bit, I did take one math class in University. Here's how that went. Again, this was about 20 years ago, so hopefully, newer technology can help.

The first hurtle may be a professor who also believes, wrongly, that you cannot take his or her class. This is BS and feel free to tell them so. thankfully, I had a very supportive, energetic and creative professor, so this was not a problem in my case. But you may run into this, someone who is baffled by the thought of a blind student in their class. Then, lucky you. It's your chance to reeducate them and get a high mark by the end!

The next hurtle: textbooks. For the class I took, the textbook was not available in anything other than print, and the time it would have taken to have it transcribed into hardcopy Braille would have meant not taking the course for months more. Here's what we did.

First, the professor was supportive from the start, and immediately assigned me one of his TA's, teaching assistants, to get together once a week with me and read me the relevant sections from the book. The TA couldn't reasonably be expected to let this one thing take over his schedule, so I had to find other readers. This included both a helpful classmate and my poor Dad. Between the four of us, we kept up with what was occurring in lecture. Disability services can help you find volunteer readers if that becomes an issue, but try reaching out to classmates who are doing the same work already.

When diagrams were involved, we did all sorts of things to make them tactile. A large cork board, thumbtacks, and elastic bands were used to quickly make graphs. The professor excitedly ran up to me one day with a bag of stuff from the local craft store, mostly styrofoam balls and short wooden sticks. "Chris! We can use these to make network diagrams!" I think we even made some things out of modeling clay at one point.
I ended up getting a B- in the class, meaning a mark in the 70's. Really, all the people involved earned that, not just me.

I'm very interested to hear what other people have to say about this, as my experiences are older. I'm hoping technology is helping more, since the work and keeping up is enough of a challenge already.

Submitted by Jeff Crouch on Tuesday, October 25, 2016

My friend Jordyn graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in computer science. She is totally blind, and now works at Apple headquarters. It is totally possible. If you want to get in contact with her her Twitter name is jordyn2493

Submitted by Fatima.Hamoud10 on Tuesday, October 25, 2016

First, you need to start programming with HTML and CSS if those two programming languages are available in computer science. I think the college that you attend should have some assistive tools for you in order to make computer science more accessible. You can also use the internet to search for algebra and equations. Remember to ask the teachers at college for further assistance. Hope this helps.

Submitted by Apple Khmer on Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Or, you can join the College Success program from Learning Ally. Lots of mentors and other folks to help yuo along the way.

Submitted by Chris Smart on Tuesday, October 25, 2016

In reply to by Fatima.Hamoud10

HTML is programming? That's news to me.

Fatima, what did you take in school? Just curious.

When I was in high school, the teachers told me it would be too difficult for a blind person to learn algebra, which is bs. I am a very strong braille reader, and I know Nemeth. I know what a 45 degree angle and a 90 degree look like, and I can just ask my dad about a 60 degree angle. I think there is this board from the American printing house for the blind that allows you to make tactile graphs. I will be sure to work very hard and ask for extra assistance. I want this degree way too much, and I will do whatever it takes to get there. By the way, I have a math assessment test this week. I may not do very good, because currently the only things I use math for currently are figuring out my bills and stuff. I'll probably have to convince the school that I'm not stupid, which in my opinionn, that's what these tests seem to be designed for, seeing how dumb people are when it comes to math... Well, even if I don't score very well, I am still going to get my degree, and I am not going to let anything stop me.

Submitted by Jeff Crouch on Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Algebra and geometry are very much doable. I took geometry in high school, I use the APH tactile drawing kit. along with the corkboard, rubber bands, and push pins. i've taken algebra, algebra two, geometry, and statistics. you can get a brill protractor to help learn different degrees of angles. and I agree with the other comments, you'll definitely want to start Learning a programming language like swift. since that is what iOS apps are programmed in.

Submitted by Paul Martin on Tuesday, October 25, 2016

This here modified TI84 might be rather useful in graphing things. Wish I had this about 15 years ago when I had to take Algebra.

Submitted by Chris Smart on Tuesday, October 25, 2016

In reply to by molly

Molly, that was just an example. you don't need to go asking anyone (grin). hint: it's halfway between 45 and 90.

That all sounds good. Yes, the school wants to know how strong you are in math. I don't see anything wrong with that. If they find out you'll need more help, that might not be a bad thing.

It sounds like talking to Jordyn @jordyn2493 on Twitter is what you should do though, since she took the career path you are interested in.

Submitted by molly on Tuesday, October 25, 2016

In reply to by Jeff Crouch

hi. I have a braille geometry kit and a braille protractor. do you think the swift playgrounds app is a good way to start learning Swift? I think the grid might be laid out like a spreadsheet.

Submitted by Fatima.Hamoud10 on Tuesday, October 25, 2016

In reply to by Chris Smart

In school I took some computer courses like Information Technology and Intro to Business. I learned how to create spreadsheets using Microsoft Excel, how to create HTML and CSS documents using Notepad and how to create PowerPoint presentations using Microsoft PowerPoint.

Submitted by AbleTec on Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Molly, don't forget about the Hadley School for the Blind ( You'll need to submit an application, an eye report, & take (an accessible) math diagnostics test, if only because if you don't have the prerequisite knowledge for algebra, chances are you won't do well. So please don't look at this as them looking "to see how dumb you are", look at it that they're assessing your knowledge so they can maximize your chances of success. But your algebra course will be in Braille if that's what you want, &, if you need to take any pre-algebra, it will be as well, if that's what you request. I didn't know they even let people graduate w/o taking algebra these days--man things have changed since I've been in high school back 3 days after dry land appeared on the earth.

Submitted by Andy B. on Wednesday, October 26, 2016

I have an undergrad in application development. Right now, I am in a Masters in software design. I had to take classes in business management,, C#, Java, OracleDB, SQL Server, MySQL, html5, css3, php, business law, accounting, data networking, project management, security, cyberlaw, statistics, calculous, HR management, business forecasting, system analysis and design, hardware and software (A+ cert), hardware networking, enterprise modeling, executive management, and enterprise security. I still have just over a year left before graduating, and there is a ton of Java classes left. Beyond that, I have software development management, secure software design, statistics at the graduate level, data mining, another database class in SQL Server 2016, a thesis project, an advanced S/A and design class, and an IT infrastructure class. It's enough to make you sweat bullets, but it can be done.

Submitted by Peter Saathoff on Wednesday, October 26, 2016

I'm currently an undergrad junior majoring in both math and computer science. While I'm not totally blind, I've been through a lot of troubleshooting and frustration with school. I've had amazing support but it's still difficult. This isn't to discourage you, just to let you know what to be prepared for.

In my math classes, I've had a person sit next to me and fill in the gaps in my understanding of what the professor is saying. This has both been another student in the class as well as a student not in the class. At the two schools I've attended, this person was paid by the disability services department. I've completed through calc 2 by now with pretty good grades. Once you get to calculus, you don't really need a calculator for college-level math, other than a simple calculator like the built-in iOS one. The thing you're going to have to get really good at is holding very long mathematical expressions in your head, but when you're forced to do that over and over, it gets easier. I'm in linear algebra and discrete math right now, and I've found solutions for doing both of those. I've been using a lot of LaTeX, and I think this is probably 95% necessary nowadays. I don't use braille at all, and I do all my math homework on my computer using Voiceover with a program called TexShop, which is an editor for LaTeX.

For computer science, I've come up with different arrangements with all my professors, but it always involves some form of them sending me files that contain the code they're talking about in class. I can usually have it open on my computer and follow along with Voiceover and headphones in while they're explaining. In terms of languages, I started with Python, which I think is really good to start with. It has simple syntax, but includes concepts found in more seriously used programming languages. If you're on a mac, I highly recommend the TextMate text editor. It has perfect Voiceover support and syntax recognition for many major languages. Also, if you're using Voiceover, I suggest going into the Voiceover Utility and changing some of the text verbosity settings to speak all punctuation and typed characters while programming.

Also, one of the most important things in college for me has been going to professor's office hours. I go to at least one professor's office a day, and often hang around the department so that I can snag a bit of time with a professor when they're available. Getting one-on-one explanations and asking questions is the most valuable thing for me.

Hope this helps.

Submitted by Andy B. on Wednesday, October 26, 2016

I wouldn't recommend not using a calculator. In my math classes, a graphing calculator is mandatory since we had to graph formulas and equations all the time. I don't recommend python for a first language because the syntax requires indents, which can mess up a blind person's perspective on the language. Depending on her situation, she might not have the ability to hang out around the department most of the time. Sitting in class may become impossible depending on the school because the classes might be online only classes. In most schools, DS offices don't pay for anything. It's the student's problem to figure out how to get something done.

Submitted by Chris Smart on Wednesday, October 26, 2016

In reply to by Andy B.

I completely disagree with the assertion that indentation messes things up for blind people. Tell your screen reader to announce it. If you read Braille, you're used to indented paragraphs, centered titles, etc. It's a way to keep things organized logically, almost as useful as it is for sighted folks.