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Jeff Berwick

(Press Release) "Blind Student Excels At High Tech School"

- Eyesight is not a prerequisite for learning -

(TORONTO - OCTOBER 31, 2000) - The first blind student to enroll at The Institute for Computer Studies exceeded everyone's expectations. Jeff Berwick just graduated at the top of his class with an overall average of 93.5% Berwick crossed all barriers, proving that eyesight is not a prerequisite for learning.

"Jeff was by far the best student in the class and the most impressive person I have ever had the privilege to teach," said Todd Bolger, an instructor at The Institute. "He reinforced the reason why I decided to get into the field of teaching in the first place - to help others excel in the field of computer programming so they can be part of the most interesting and rewarding fields in the world today."

"I was always interested in programming, but I didn't want to spend four years in University," said Berwick. "I was pleased to find that private schools offered a six month course. After researching several schools, I decided to enroll in the e-commerce solutions developer course at The Institute for Computer Studies Bloor campus. They offered in-depth knowledge through their immersion program."

Jeff Landra (his wife) and his guide dog Beacon Before accepting Berwick into the program, The Institute contacted Opportunities for the Blind; a non-profit organization based in Leonardtown, Maryland, to ensure employers would hire a blind programmer. They put the school in touch with members of Visually Impaired Data Processors International, a group of blind computer programmers.

"The Institute is to be commended for opening its eyes to what capable blind people can accomplish," said Robert Johnson, President of Opportunities. "One of the biggest obstacles that stands in the way of many blind people is the reluctance of others to give them a chance to prove what they can do," Johnson added.

Berwick lost his sight when he was thirteen as a result of bilateral sheath meningioma, which are small tumors in his optic nerve canal. "As my optic nerve grew, the signal between my brain and eyes was cut off due to stagnated growth in the canal," said Berwick. "I had an operation to remove the roofs of the canals to give the optic nerves room to grow. While I was in surgery the neurosurgeon discovered these little tumors that were also taking up space in the canal."

Berwick discovered his passion for programming in grade ten. He grew up in Oshawa, spending the last nine years in Pickering. He obtained a radio and broadcast diploma from Fanshawe College in London in 1996. From 1997 until December 1999, he worked in the Public Affairs department at the Ontario Medical Association in Toronto. "I met my wife Landra in 1998 while I was training for my second guide dog, Beacon at Canadian Guide Dogs in Ottawa," said Berwick.

Jeff's only request to his instructors at The Institute was that if they pointed to something on the chalkboard, they read it out loud. He installed his own software program, which enabled his laptop to talk to him. The software reads text on the screen out loud. He wore headphones so it wouldn't disturb the class.

Days after completing the course, Jeff and Landra moved to Vancouver, BC. Landra had a job waiting for her with the B.C. Guide Dog Services. Jeff is confident he will secure a programming position quickly.

"All our instructors were very impressed with Jeff's ability to think and learn quickly," said Lorenzo Santini, General Manager and Vice President of The Institute. "He surpassed everyone's expectations, even his own! He certainly proved that determination, hard work and a good attitude can produce top results." Over the past two years, The Institute has been featured both for its academic and community achievement in Maclean's Magazine, The Globe & Mail, The Ottawa Citizen, The Toronto Star and The Toronto Sun. The Institute is also a regular guest on a weekly technology and business series on CP24 Television.

The Institute has campuses located in Toronto, North York, Mississauga, Ottawa and Calgary. In addition to these schools, they have strategic-training alliances with major companies, including IBM, Microsoft and Oracle.

Read a magazine article about Jeff.

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