Web Accessibility Certifications for A11Y Practitioners

Web Accessibility Certifications for A11Y Practitioners

Last Edited February 27, 2019 by Garenne Bigby in Accessibility Testing

In the ever-evolving, technologically advanced world, a relatively new career in “digital accessibility” has surfaced. It’s a broad, in-depth field with a range of opportunities, from software development to project management to software testing to UI/UX designers and everything in between. While most in the field are self-taught, there are a series of certifications available to help those working in the industry stand out from the competition.

What makes web accessibility certifications for a11y practitioners so important? When you have the right web accessibility certifications, it’s easier to launch your career and demonstrate your expertise. A certification doesn’t make you an expert, but in a field where most workers are self-taught, a certification can make a world of difference. Although it doesn’t make you an expert, it does showcase an understanding of core concepts necessary to work in the field.

If you’re looking to thrive in the digital accessibility field, there’s a range of important topics you should know about before trying to achieve any web accessibility certifications:

  • Various disabilities

  • Accessibility principles

  • Legal requirements

  • Universal design

  • Assistive technologies

Comprehensive knowledge of the topics above will help ensure you’re able to achieve the web accessibility certifications you’re attempting to accomplish. So where do web accessibility certifications come from? What web accessibility certifications should you strive to achieve?

In 2015, the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) commissioned to outline the accessibility profession, and in an endeavor to improve the field, they created a series of certifications for those in the industry.

IAAP International Association of Accessibility Professionals

What is Certification?

First, let’s take a broad look at the definition of the word ‘certification’. A certification is a credential that showcases the receiver has specific skills and/or knowledge. The receiver must earn the certification by demonstrating those skills and/or knowledge. Typically, certifications are tied to technologies, occupations or industries. The IAAP’s certification program defines exactly what professionals working in the industry should know.

Certifications are commonly used to ensure the utmost consistency in terms of quality and work performance in any given technology, occupation or industry. The IAAP certification program is no exception—ensuring those in the industry are competent in the areas that are deemed important.

In fact, the IAAP is a member of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE), a professional association that offers important resources. These include, but not limited to education and networking, for those who work in the credentialing industry. They’re a leading developer when it comes to certifications, as well as test development and delivery.

The IAAP certification program is developed to reach a set of goals through its accessibility certifications:

  • Defining the knowledge and professionalism experts are expected to retain.

  • Providing metrics for employers to measure the competence of employees.

  • Increasing the consistency and quality of work performance in the industry.

  • Ensuring educational programs have a clear curriculum outlined for teachers.

  • Offering a strong credibility selling point for those professionals in the field.

Plus, the IAAP certification program helps professionals ensure they’re conforming to the Revised 508 Standard. This is a set of standards containing technical requirements for information and communication technology (ICT) to maintain accessibility for those with disabilities.

There’s a Section 508 Awareness course wherein agencies are shown how to deliver accessible technology products and/or services. However, those working in the digital accessibility field will greatly benefit from the various certifications available through the IAAP certification program.

When it comes to getting certified, it’s the best, most reliable way to show measurement of knowledge and skills. You’re going above and beyond training, demonstrating that you’ve received the training you need, and you’re able to do the job efficiently according to common best practices.

So how do you know you should get certified? If you’re seriously interested in a career in digital accessibility and you have a desire to stay in the field for a long time, the IAAP certification exams would undoubtedly be a good idea. They’ll help boost your chances of finding a great career in the field.


Why is Certification Needed?

When we envision a more inclusive society, we need to work towards that dream in terms of digital accessibility in various fields—from education to government and everything in between. There’s an increasing need for qualified professionals in the field. In fact, the supply of A11y practitioners doesn’t keep up with the demand whatsoever.

So why is certification needed? As digital accessibility grows, we need to make sure those working in the field are qualified and knowledgeable, not simply jumping in because there was an opening. There are tons of great people in the field, but it’s hard to move digital accessibility forward without more minds adding to the industry.

The IAAP certifications help validate accessibility professionals as being ready to adhere to requirements and thrive in an ever-growing field. In fact, since the first exam on March 22, 2016, over 900 certifications have been achieved! This is a giant, impressive step towards a more inclusive society.

Are you thinking about a career in digital accessibility? If so, certification is a must. If you’re a beginner in the field, studying and preparing for the exams will help you fill in the gaps in terms of your skills and expertise. You’ll learn more, and you’ll be able to demonstrate that knowledge—achieving a certification that helps you find a career.

The IAAP offers two levels of certification: professional and technical. Let’s review what each of these certification levels entails:

  • Professional level: This starts with the foundational level which is an entry-level credential that reviews the basics. The broad and conceptual level is next, covering a wide range of vital topics without delving into a more profound, technical nature.

  • Technical level: This starts with the technical level, requiring in-depth knowledge of technical standards and guidelines. You must be able to use relevant technologies and accessibility tools. Then comes multiple technical level credentials for various accessibility domains.

As mentioned above, web accessibility certifications make launching your career and demonstrating your expertise much easier than ever before. Consider that most workers in the field are self-taught. This means those with certifications will stand out amongst the competition, securing jobs in the field as they showcase an understanding of core concepts.

Now we’ve reviewed the benefits for professionals themselves. What about the digital accessibility industry? Does the industry itself benefit from certifications? For the digital accessibility industry, there’s a multitude of benefits when it comes to having certified professionals:

  • Promoting a higher level of social inclusion for those with disabilities

  • Ensuring better product and/or service design and development

  • Raising awareness, as well as standards, in terms of accessibility

Overall, the IAAP goes a few steps further than merely offering certifications to those working in the field. The IAAP reminds us of the importance of the disability rights movement—helping to achieve inclusive digital design for everyone. This means that all users will have a positive experience using various products and/or services, which is crucial for society in its entirety.


All About CPACC, WAS, and CPWA...

IAAP offers three different levels of credentials. We’ll review each level and what is required so you can make a well-informed choice when you’re ready to take one of the exams.


The CPACC

The Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC) is the foundational certification, which requires knowledge about three crucial areas:

  • Accessibility and universal design

  • Disabilities and assistive technologies

  • Accessibility-related laws, standards, and strategies for management

The CPACC credential is perfect for those who aren’t working on designing or implementing technical details of accessible solutions, but instead, are focused on supporting and managing them. Ultimately, the CPACC credential focuses on helping those who work on the web or digital technologies that require accessibility for the disabled.

So what can you expect from the exam? The CPACC exam contains 100 multiple-choice questions that feature four potential responses. There are radio buttons to choose your answer. All the questions will have one correct answer, two incorrect answers, and one distraction answer that is close to the correct answer. This ensures the person taking the test truly demonstrates the knowledge necessary.

If you’re interested in taking the CPACC exam, be prepared to spend 2 hours going through all 100 multiple-choice questions. For IAAP members, the CPACC exam is available for $325. For non-members, it’s available for $425. However, if you qualify for the IAAP Developing and Emerging Economies rate ($150), contact the IAAP to receive a link or coupon code for your discount.


The WAS

The Web Accountability Specialist (WAS) exam is designed for professionals looking to evaluate the accessibility of existing products and/or services, as well as make recommendations for remediation. If you’re taking this exam, you must be able to use the relevant technologies. This means it’s important you’re more tech-savvy and ready to design, implement, and manage accessible content.

Although writing code isn’t necessary, it’s important to prepare yourself by ensuring you’re able to:

  • Recognize issues in programmatic content

  • Express what is incorrect or missing from programmatic content

  • Understand usability and the impact on end-users

This exam is intended for those who have hands-on experience in the field of web accessibility. You should expect to answer 75 multiple-choice questions that feature four potential responses. Like the CPACC exam, all of the questions will have one correct answer, two incorrect answers, and one distraction answer that is close to the correct answer.

For IAAP members, the CPACC exam is available for $375. For non-members, it’s available for $475. However, if you qualify for the IAAP Developing and Emerging Economies rate ($195), contact the IAAP to receive a link or coupon code for your discount.


The CPWA

For those who pass the CPACC and the WAS exams, the higher-level credential is available. This is known as the Certified Professional in Web Accessibility (CPWA)—designed for those who have achieved a passing grade for the exams listed above. The CPWA simply means you’ve demonstrated the knowledge and skills necessary for all levels of digital accessibility.


Media Access Australia (W3C Member): Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility

If you’re looking to get certified in the field of web accessibility, this is another great option. The Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility is offered through Media Access Australia, a non-for-profit organization dedicated to improving technology and media accessibility for the disabled.

Media Access Australia is a member of the Worldwide Consortium (W3C), a group that contributes to the development of the WCAG 2.0 standards, as well as the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). They’re also a member of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) mentioned above.

Aside from offering the Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility, Media Access Australia also contributes to the world of digital accessibility in a variety of ways through four key areas:

  • Strategy development

  • Consulting and services

  • Education and training

  • Policy development

So what is the Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility? It’s one of few university-accredited courses available for web and digital access. In 2017, Knowbility in the USA honored the Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility, placing it among the 2017 Heroes of Accessibility for Outstanding Accessibility Education. It’s a 6-week course that’s perfect for those who want to learn more, regardless of location.

Students taking the course will have the ability to share and interact with other web accessibility professionals. They'll learn from one another as they discuss challenges, ideas, and concepts relevant to the field. The course gives an overview of the essential principles and techniques for ensuring accessibility for those who are disabled. Here’s a review of the course structure:

  1. Why we must care about the online requirements of those with disabilities: This module reviews the practical, ethical, and financial reasons to consider people with disabilities when it comes to products and/or services.

  2. What the key policies and legislative frameworks involve: This module reviews the key policies, institutions, and legislative frameworks involve when it comes to implementing accessibility initiatives.

  3. Techniques that are essential for the implementation of WCAG 2.1: This module reviews the most practical ways to incorporate the guidelines and ensure ‘A’ compliance in your day-to-day work practices.

  4. Advanced techniques that are essential for the implementation of WCAG 2.1: This module takes it one step further, offering the most practical ways to ensure ‘AA’ level compliance and the merits of ‘AAA’ level compliance.

  5. How ATAG 2.0 authoring tool guidelines can be used: This module takes into consideration that WCAG 2.1 is a major focus, but those who create or use authoring tools need to know about ATAG 2.0

  6. Current trends and future technologies to keep in mind: This module allows students to think about important trends and future technologies that may impact and expand accessibility requirements.

The Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility allows students to set their own pace throughout the 6-week course. However, you should expect to dedicate an approximate 10-12 hours per week to the material. There will be three assignments wherein you’re asked to examine website usability, captioning, and other factors.

If you’re interested in taking the course, prepare to pay AUD 2,400 towards it. This course is perfect for those who have some experience in the digital accessibility field but would like more hands-on experience, especially in terms of how those with disabilities access the web.


Mohawk College: Ontario College Graduate Certificate in Accessible Media Production

Mohawk College, located in Hamilton, Ontario, offers the first graduate program in Ontario, Canada focused entirely on accessible media production. The program, which was developed by industry professionals, includes two 15-week semesters. It is offered online and courses are offered in the evenings on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you’re looking for industry experience through work integrated learning, this program is perfect for you.

You’ll learn a lot about digital accessibility as the program is focused on giving you the following:

  • Intensive training in producing content that is accessible, including:

    • Open and closed captioning

    • Accessible websites and social media platforms

    • Described and integrated-described video

    • And much more

  • Access to top industry professionals who can help you learn how to create accessible content via the latest technologies.

  • Information on how to apply accessible media practices, whether you’re joining a business or starting an entrepreneurial adventure.

Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about people with disabilities and their experiences with the advancements of technology. This is valuable, real-world information that you can take with you as you enter or further your career in the realm of digital accessibility.

This program will you give the knowledge you need to work in a range of fields when it comes to digital accessibility. From office administration to document remediation to front-end web content editing, you have a whole host of options once you’ve completed the program.

In addition, those who graduate from this program will be ready to take the IAAP’s CPACC credential. You won’t have to worry about being ill-prepared as this program gives you all the skills and expertise necessary to achieve the certification with ease. If you’d like more information, consider attending an open house.

Why attend an open house? You’ll have the chance to learn more about the program, as well as meet faculty, staff, and other students. You can explore the campus and learn about payment and/or financial assistance options, so you’re better prepared to fund your education.

Are you ready to start your career in digital accessibility? The web accessibility certifications for A11y practitioners listed above will help you thrive in the ever-evolving, technologically advanced world. Whether you’re looking to become or further your career as a project manager, software tester, UI/UX designer, or something else, the choices above are all highly recommended.

The right certifications will help you stand out amongst the competition, especially considering how many individuals are self-taught without certifications in the field of digital accessibility. More than ever before, employers in all industries are looking at certifications to ensure individuals applying for jobs possess the skills and knowledge they claim to have.

Whether you’re just starting or already in the digital accessibility field but looking to further your education, getting certified will make a world of difference in your career in digital accessibility. Not sure which certification to choose from those mentioned above?

Consider your geographical location, existing skills, budget, and where you’d like to end up career-wise. When you put time into these considerations, you’re sure to find the right certification for you, ensuring you're ready to succeed in your current or future job role.

Garenne Bigby
Author: Garenne BigbyWebsite: http://garennebigby.com
Founder of DYNO Mapper and Advisory Committee Representative at the W3C.

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