On December third we acknowledge International Day of Persons with Disabilities and reflect on Cisco Networking Academy’s commitment to create an inclusive future for all, including people living with disabilities. This year, the United Nations unveils a theme echoing Cisco’s position: “Transformative solutions for inclusive development – the role of innovation in fuelling an accessible and equitable world.”
As many as one billion people worldwide live with a disability. One in eight people are more likely to be disadvantaged by poorer education outcomes and lower levels of employment. One study of ten least developed and developing economies reports that excluding people with disabilities from the workforce could cost those economies between three and seven percent of GDP.
Technology levels the playing field.
At Cisco, we believe technology can power an inclusive future for all. For 25 years, Cisco Networking Academy has focused on providing high-quality IT curriculum in leading-edge subjects like networking and cybersecurity, learning simulators, and hands-on learning opportunities via a learning platform to support instructors and engage learners in 190 countries.
Cisco Networking Academy creates and delivers accessible curriculum, learning platforms, and tools to meet the needs of educators and students through design with compatible assistive technologies. Cisco Networking Academy’s netacad.com and skillsforall.com learning platforms follow Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to make content more accessible to a wide range of people with disabilities. In fiscal 2019, course enhancements included screen reader support (including lab instructions), transcripts, closed captions, keyboard shortcuts, and online accessibility resources for instructors to support students with accessibility accommodations.
For more information about our work in this area, visit our
These course enhancements and design considerations follow a commitment Cisco made in 2017 to train 10,000 students with disabilities in five years.
Inclusive workforce development goes beyond technology. It also requires innovation and a collaborative community that is united in purpose and serving together.
Some innovative ‘firsts’ for our Networking Academy ecosystem include:
- Partnering with UT de Santa Catarina in Mexico, one of the first institutions capable of offering a model of educational and labor inclusion for people with disabilities in the Americas.
- Creating Cisco Access for the Visually Impaired (CAVI), in partnership with Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Western Australia, which saw its first graduates in 2005. Dr. Iain Murray started the program as a short-term research project in 2001 and has since been awarded an Order of Australia for his work. The program now teaches close to 300 vision-impaired students annually from around the world through partnerships with organizations in India, Sri Lanka, The United Kingdom, South Africa, and Myanmar.
- The Royal National College for the Blind in the United Kingdom became a Networking Academy in 2014.
- The abilITy Cisco Networking Academy in New York offered by the Institute for Career Development (ICD) became the first IT training program for people with disabilities in the United States in 2018.
These are just a few of our partners doing great work to make the Networking Academy Program available to people with disabilities worldwide.
How are we tracking against the commitment we made five years ago to train 10,000 people with disabilities? Since we activated voluntary self-reporting in fiscal 2019, as many as 153,000 students have declared disabilities. Our work in this focused area continues to evolve and we’re honored to make an even greater impact.
Meet some of our inspirational Networking Academy graduates and instructors with disabilities:
Jacques, from the United States, not only achieved CCNA certification as part of his degree program at College of DuPage, but went on to complete a Master’s program. He was recently awarded American Airforce Association CyberPatriot XIII Mentor of the Year.
Jacques found his passion for technology after his vision started to change, and succeeded in part because he learned to ask what tools were available to help. He now works as a Cybersecurity and Incident Response Analyst at United Airlines.
Tyler was working as a relief cook when the pandemic struck, and it made him realize he wanted to change his career. With assistance from Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, he overcame his learning difficulties to study the Cisco Cybersecurity Associate Program at Holyoke Community College. Tyler is now Lead Associate of Tech Development at an IT solutions provider, where he instructs interns in basic PC function, PC builds and networking, as well as basic cybersecurity. He hopes to earn a degree. “Having a disability shouldn’t limit or define your capabilities….It’s taking me longer than most to achieve what I’d like but I’ll get there eventually,” he says.
Juan, from Peru, had an interest in computers from a young age. Despite his hearing impairment, Juan found his home with Cisco Networking Academy. “When I joined the Cisco Networking Academy, the practical approach they had in their digital courses made my learning experience so much easier,” he says.
He felt so strongly about the curriculum he now works as a Cisco CCNA instructor, and as an IT Supervisor for another company. Check out Juan’s story in this video:
A different way of perceiving things may give Richard, from the United States, an advantage in cybersecurity as a Senior Analyst. Being neurodivergent could have presented a challenge in his education. With assistance from the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission and Holyoke Community College, Richard achieved both Cisco Certified CyberOps Associate and Cisco Certified Network Associate accreditation.
“The Cisco Cybersecurity training gave me the knowledge, especially in the data and privacy space, to succeed at work, and I recommend the program to anyone considering it,” he says.
Fabien, from France, studied for his CCNA and Introduction to Cybersecurity at Lycée Cabanis with the help of a French sign language interpreter. He transitioned from work in building maintenance and as an electrician to running his own IT contracting, networking administration, and coaching company.
“I am very proud to succeed in networking as a hearing-impaired person. It proves that I am as capable as anyone,” he says.
Discover more inspiring stories on NetAcad.com