“CompTIA A+® Certification
"CompTIA A+ certification is an international industry credential that
validates the knowledge of computer service technicians with the equivalent
hours of hands-on experience. Major hardware and software vendors, distributors
and resellers accept CompTIA A+ as the standard in foundation-level, vendor-neutral
certification for service technicians. The exams cover a broad range of hardware
and software technologies, but are not bound to any vendor-specific products.
"The skills and knowledge measured by the CompTIA A+ exams were derived
from an industry-wide and worldwide job task analysis. To date, more than
500,000 individuals have obtained CompTIA A+ certification."
Some time back I came across the above notice on a webpage while browsing
through many different sites proclaiming what their courses would do for
me. Truthfully, I think I only ever came across just a couple that I found
real benefit in either reading about or going one step further and that is
to actually participate in them. I also had other reasons for not taking
part. I have been blind for all of fourteen years now. I am not going to
about myself, well not entirely. What I want to write about
is my experiences with education and, specifically, educating myself in the
area of technology—a topic I like very much both as a hobby and for my way
of earning a living.
It has been all of ten years since I first learned to touch type. After
that, I learn what was state-of-the-art back then—yes that’s
right, the good old “DOS” operating system. I have forgotten a
lot of the commands but every now and then, while either working on my own
machines here in my office or carrying out essential work for my clients,
I have to get re-acquainted with it. I still have a fondness for the good
old command line interface, after all it was that, that made it possible
back in the dark days of accessibility for those of us who were blind to
actually work a computer and still today holds much affection in the hearts
of many vision impaired persons.
It became apparent to me some months back that I never formally learned the
Windows or graphical user interface. I needed to think
about updating my skills and also had to remember that I just couldn’t
take time off to go into full-time education again...nor did I want to,
I have to say. I got as much information as I could put together in order
to determine and understand what I wanted. I felt I needed a starting point—a
course not allied so much to any particular company, but something that would
help me build as I went along and help me enter into further more advanced
studies. Also, I wanted training that would enhance, for now, my needs and
requirements for my work.
My work as a technical support officer here in Ireland for the National
Council for the Blind, (http://www.ncbi.ie)
keeps me busy in a variety of areas all in the line of technology.
However, I also need to to provide support to help the average
user, college student or work place person who is blind. I need to help
them get the most out of their accessibility software, as well as traditional
systems used on computers today.
I made some inquiries about various courses and eventually it came down to
me doing the one called “The A+”. It seemed to have just what I
needed and I also discovered that it was supported here in Ireland by our
national training body—FAS, http://www.fas.ie.
I sourced my study materials and asked many questions. The most important
to me were; “Was this course material going to be accessible to me?.” “Can
I access the study materials on the web?.” I think the two questions
I have outlined here sum up for me what I needed but after getting my answers
it came to “What I would settle for.” I had to take the traditional
material of three rather thick volume books. I can tell you I wasn’t
looking forward to how I would handle these.
At the time another blind friend of mine decided to take up the same challenge
and together we formed a strategy. We decided that using our advanced scanning
software system of Kurzweil1000, http://www.kurzweiledu.com and
then taking the end result in word with spell-checker. And yes, I also took
advantage of some of the tricks I learned from Dian in her on-line VBA tutorials
where macros were concerned. Together, we managed to come up with some nicely
scanned materials. This work took us a couple of weeks to master and perhaps
another couple of weeks to refine to our taste.
I am highlighting here in what I have written how difficult it can be making
a decision to go back into study as it involves a lot of commitment and knowledge
of how it might possibly work out for an individual.
I wanted to do this course and so did my friend so we kept going.
Finally we were ready and began making up our own schedules around what suited
After approximately five months of intensive study both using the study guides
and referring to the vast amounts of extra materials on the Internet I felt
in a position to sit the first exam—which for me was the hardware.
Both of us decided on the same day and we applied. We thought it would
be plain sailing from here on, boy were we wrong. It turned out that here
in Europe the people responsible for giving the go-ahead for peoples A+ exams
were somewhat sceptical about two vision impaired people taking such an exam.
What seemed to trigger off their scepticism was that we would require “readers” to
help us with the questions which the computer would toss up at us. I guess
they figured we might have a couple of real professional types come with
us and help us through it. I must say at the time I took exception to their
lack of trust in us but now maybe I can see a little of what they were getting
We were asked to submit several documents pertaining to our disability.
We had to get more than one letter from our GPs to “prove” we were
blind—as if we didn’t know we were. *smile* And so on and on it
went till some days I was nearing the give-up point of the whole thing. I
had laboured for hours every day for months and when I was all ready we would
find there would be a hitch. I think only that we were lucky enough to have
a representative on the inside of our National Training Authority here who
pushed the exam people in Holland very hard. Without this support, we would
have given up. So to him, we owe a debt of gratitude.
Came the day of our exam. Both of us, together with our readers, took our
places at our respective computers in the training centre and we were
set. For those of you who might not understand, the computers were loaded
with special software that contained numerous questions relating to the exam.
We had to answer 80 questions for the hardware exam and needed to get
a score of “515
points or over to pass.” If
they had written this program correctly in the first place, we could have
used our own screen reader software. But we couldn’t, so this is
why we needed human readers.
What came up on the screen and was read back to us also seemed far removed
from the study guides. Thankfully, in my case, my previous experience
paid off and I managed to complete the test. It took a lot of patience by
those readers that day. By the end of the exam, I am sure they breathed
a sigh of relief.
I managed to pass my exam, and subsequently went on to
pass my second test in the A+, which was software. It was a great experience
and has put me back in touch with studying again—but it was difficult.
Sure, nothing in life worth obtaining is ever easy, but we owe special thanks
to our friend here in the Training body and, of course, to our dedicated
I think, too, that the powers that be over such exams as this have
learned not to write us off. Hopefully, they have learned not to try
and frustrate us with more and more obstacles, but to allow those of us who
want to be up there with the best...with a chance to do that.