Coding for Inclusivity
11-Year-Old Speaker, Coder, and Advocate Anna Miller on Why Coding is for Everybody
Anna Miller’s story is one of inspiration, adversity, and hope. An orphan originally from Russia, Miller was adopted at the age of three, ending up in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, with her new family. Born with the genetic bone disorder Osteogenesis Imperfecta, Miller has made it her mission to show the world that no matter who you are coding is for you. Her enthusiasm for technology has resulted in a number of speaking opportunities, with Miller aspiring to someday create a coding camp specifically for young girls and an app to assist the lives of individuals with disabilities.
Miller’s advocacy, story, and speaking prowess are being recognized, as seen with her appearance at WE Day, the largest youth empowerment event in the world, alongside host Neil Patrick Harris and celebrity speakers such as Mahershala Ali and Bill Nye. In this exclusive interview, Miller reveals what got her interested in technology, the main message she wants to convey, and what she envisions for her ambitious future.
Innovation & Tech Today: What originally piqued your interest in technology?
Anna Miller: I went to a tech program at Digital Harbor Foundation. One of my teachers there, she introduced me to one coding program in particular called Scratch. And ever since I’ve been doing that, I’ve really just felt like this is something that I could do. This is something that I was going to be good at, that would break down barriers for me.
I&T Today: Why do you believe technology as a whole, especially when it comes to coding, is so important for this generation?
Anna Miller: Well, we live in a world where a lot of people overlook people like me, overlook girls or people with disabilities. So really, I think that coding is for everyone. Everyone can do it no matter who you are or what you decide to be in the future. And I think that it’s really good because it’s something that you don’t have to be good at, and you can prove to people that if you can do this, then you can do anything.
I&T Today: One of your aspirations is to create a camp for girls to learn to code. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Anna Miller: I want to teach girls about what really opened the doors for me, and I want them to really experience what coding is like. So I want to make something that really gets girls together and we can just share ideas and code whatever they like and set goals and challenges that they can overcome and just really work together and see how much coding can make a difference.
I&T Today: And you’re planning on developing an app as well?
Anna Miller: So usually when I go somewhere, I sometimes have trouble getting into a building because it might be hard for me to find the accessible entrance. I don’t want that to be a problem for other people. So I want to build an app where it’s easy to get to the building and where it’s easy to find that accessible entrance. Even in the bathroom, some stalls might be hard to get into, and I want to make sure that they know which stall is the best for them.
My overall plan is to try to build the app and just make sure that people can find the accessible route and learn more about the app, about how to make it and learn the coding programs to try to help out with it and collect the data. And in time, users can add their own experience.
I&T Today: What do you think is the main message that you really want to get across while speaking at events such as WE Day?
Anna Miller: That coding is for everyone, and no matter who you are, or what you want to be, coding will help you with whatever job you have in the future. Boys, girls, and people with disabilities, anybody can code.
If you’re willing to work hard and really learn more about coding, it can be something really fun, and it can change the world. Even if people say your ideas are weird, or something that’s not going to work. Because we live in a world where people say no, and I want to live in a world where people say yes. So, if they say no to you, you say yes.
I&T Today: What would you say is the best way for people to learn to code?
Anna Miller: You can take classes. You can read about coding. You can do all these different coding kits; I’ve had some very good coding kits. You can just learn more about coding in any way, really, that makes you feel comfortable. And really, coding is something that is simple; it’s fun. If you really achieve your goal of learning more, then you can really do something with it.