In the digital world, there is an increasing need for qualified professionals with a digital accessibility skillset. Employers are finding it harder and harder to fill these roles primarily because of a lack of these skills in the current workforce. As you contemplate your career path, there may be opportunities in the digital accessibility field that would open new opportunities for you. In addition to honing your personal skills in designing inclusive and accessible web-based products, having the knowledge to assess the level of standards compliance of websites and web-based applications is also in high demand. This assessment is critical to the compliance efforts of education institutions and commercial entities alike. Below are three opportunities to increase your level of awareness, knowledge, and expertise in the field of digital accessibility.
Certification provides a common set of values and expertise within a profession. Obtaining a certificate in a particular discipline assures employers that you have met certain levels of expertise and knowledge along with a level of commitment to the field. As a result, employers can place a consistent and fair set of expectations on certificate holders.
The International Association of Accessibility Professionals has created two types of certification: a professional level credential and technical level credential. The IAAP Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC) is a foundational certification, examining a broad conceptual knowledge of 1) disabilities, 2) accessibility and universal design, and 3) accessibility-related standards, laws, and management strategies.
The second certification is geared toward the technical side of online development. The IAAP Web Accessibility Specialist (WAS) is for those who personally design, develop, implement, evaluate, or manage the technical details of accessible web solutions. The certification exam evaluates an individual’s knowledge of current standards, guidelines, and other web accessibility topics.
Individuals who obtain both certifications are eligible to carry a higher level of credential called the Certified Professional in Web Accessibility (CPWA), also offered through IAAP.
Trusted Tester Program
As products in the digital environment are developed and procured, the level of accessibility must be assessed. Currently, testing is completed inconsistently; Which standards are followed? What is the expertise of the person or persons conducting the evaluation? How long ago was the evaluation done?
An effort started within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to achieve more compliance testing consistency is gaining traction. The Trusted Tester Program at DHS is the model for a larger effort underway at the national level.
This model provides a common set of compliance standards and uniformity of the testing process. Most importantly, it would provide the designation of “Trusted Tester” to entities that meet certain criteria. This designation assures organizations relying on the compliance tests that proper processes have been followed and that the tests were conducted by individuals with required expertise.
This fall, the 2017 ICT Accessibility Testing Symposium will be held in Washington, D.C. If you have interest in this effort or are interested in learning what becoming a Trusted Tester entails, I strongly encourage you to attend.
Organizations and Events
The IAAP is a membership-based organization of educational institutions and private industries that focus on the accessibility of the digital environment. They have a very vibrant connections community that provides an active knowledge exchange with tools and tips on topics such as the accessibility of data tables in iframes, accessibility issues within common CMS tools such as Drupal and WordPress, and, of course, all the accessibility features built into HTML 5 with ARIA. Their international conference is usually held in late May or early June in the Washington, D.C. area.
Accessing Higher Ground (AHG) is an upcoming digital accessibility conference with a focus on the technical how-to aspects of accessibility. This conference will be held in Westminster, CO (between Denver and Boulder) November 13-17. AHG focuses on the higher ed space, but the sessions can easily translate to any industry.
The upcoming EDUCAUSE Annual Conference will be held in Philadelphia October 31-November 3. Not as technical in nature as AHG, EDUCAUSE is also higher-ed focused and offers an accessibility track that aligns the concepts of information technology and accessibility.
All three of these opportunities offer networking and resources that are beneficial as you work to build websites and applications, for the most inclusive audience possible.
Sessions at edUi 2017
Want to learn more? Don’t miss these sessions on accessibility and inclusive design at edUi 2017:
- What Responsive Design Can Teach Us About Accessibility
- Accessible Development For All!
- Journey to an Accessible, Streamlined Campus Theme
- Tear Down This Wall! Removing boundaries to create an accessible website
- The Accessible User Experience
- Compassionate Content & UX
- Design For Real Life
About the Author
Lori Kressin is the Coordinator of Academic Accessibility at the University of Virginia, reporting under the Executive Vice President and Provost Office. Her role is to ensure the accessibility of the academic experience at UVA, working with a variety of offices. Prior to assuming this position in 2014, she held a variety roles within the main UVA IT organization, the Department of Athletics, and Intramural-Recreational Sports. Kressin has a Bachelor of Science from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls and a Master’s of Science in Education from James Madison University.