March 8 2023

Visual impairment doesn’t limit what Step Up intern Haney envisions for her future in IT

Step Up intern Haley at UCare

A computer essentials class at South High School sparked Haney's interest in computer programming, setting her on a course for a career in coding. But it was her Step Up internship at UCare that made it real.

Information technology (IT) engineers at UCare taught Haney new methods of coding and how to overcome programming obstacles. “I’m so much better prepared for my career now,” she says. “And I helped them learn how to work with someone with disabilities!”

Haney lost her eyesight when she was three years old due to a skin condition called xeroderma pigmentosum (XP). For Haney, the sun is toxic, so when she goes outside she protects herself with sunblock, dark sunglasses, gloves and extra head protection beyond the hijab she wears as a Somali woman. As a first-generation immigrant, she loves Minnesota winters because of the shield of protection they provide, along with cooler temperatures.

Securing a remote Step Up internship was imperative for Haney so she could access assistive tools, including a screen reader app that translates words to voice. “UCare's technology worked very well with mine,” she says. “The biggest challenge was the compliance training that I needed to complete. There were a lot of images that weren’t accessible to me, but they fixed it by putting image descriptions into a Word document that could be picked up by my screen reader.”

Haney’s daily internship work centered around a computer program that she built herself before coming to UCare. She designed the program to make it easier to order food in restaurants, and it features a more accessible menu selection process with entrée sizes and pricing.

UCare engineers taught Haney some new coding methods to help her improve her program, including reducing lines of code to make the program more flexible. “I figured out how to add classifications to the program that corrected indentation errors,” she said. “It was challenging, but my supervisor and mentor looked it over and helped me. They taught me how to walk away and come back refreshed and ready to work on it again.”

Throughout her Step Up internship, Haney received support from Transition Plus, a MPS postsecondary program that supports students in successfully transitioning from high school to adult life. Her Transitions Plus work coordinator and teacher Benjamin Rodriguez also provided personalized support that enhanced her Step Up experience. 

“My Step Up internship was amazing because I was pursuing my interests,” said Haney. “And all of my UCare co-workers supported me. They told me I was amazing because I helped them prepare to help others. I taught them and they taught me.”