Why I think that accessibility certifications are useful
Accessibility is becoming increasingly important. The European Accessibility Act will prescribe binding requirements for products and services from 2025. This also increases the need for experts who support companies in the accessible design of their websites and apps.
But what distinguishes an accessibility expert? How do I know that someone actually has a clue or is just throwing around buzzwords?
From my point of view, recognized certifications play an important role here. In this article I would like to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of accessibility certifications and venture a definition of what skills can be expected from professionals.
Photo: © Marcus Aurelius / pexels.com
Note: I earned the “Certified Web Accessibility Expert” certificate from UBIT Academy incite in 2019. In the beginning of 2023 I became an “IAAP Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC)” (credential at Credly).
The Essential Skills of an Accessibility Expert
Accessibility experts should have empathy for people with disabilities. They should have a sincere interest in the everyday life of these people and try to put themselves in their respective situation:
- How do blind people surf the Internet with the help of a screen reader?
- Under what conditions can people with motor impairments operate a website using the keyboard alone?
- When is video and audio content accessible for deaf people?
Knowledge of the relevant standards and laws is another minimum requirement. This includes both the success criteria of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the European standard EN 301 549, and relevant national laws such as the Austrian Barrierefreiheitsgesetz (BaFG).
In addition, accessibility experts should also have experience in testing for accessibility. They must be able to assess whether a website or app complies with specific criteria and point out solutions for any barriers found.
Various institutions offer certifications on the topic of accessibility. There are national certification bodies such as the UBIT Academy incite in Austria. They offer certification as a Certified WebAccessibility Expert.
The International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) offers several certifications, including the Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC) and the Web Accessibility Specialist (WAS). Their aim is to support accessibility experts in building up their expertise.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of such certifications?
- Increased credibility: Certification is proof that one has certain skills and experience. This underlines the credibility of experts.
- Uniform standard: In order to obtain certification, interested parties must demonstrate their knowledge of specific content in examinations or individual interviews. Reputable institutions define a publicly accessible body of knowledge for this purpose, which makes this content transparent.
- Community of practice and knowledge exchange: IAAP supports the networking of accessibility experts with online forums, webinars and various events.
- Cost: Certification is not free. CPACC, for example, costs just under $500 (slightly less for members). Not everyone can afford it. However, compared to many other certifications in the IT field, I find the price very moderate.
- Cognitive barrier: Often a certification consists of a multiple-choice test with countless questions. For example, on the CPACC, you have to answer a full 100 questions in two hours. That's exhausting. For people with cognitive impairment, that can also be an insurmountable barrier.
From my point of view, accessibility certifications are a good thing. They provide uniform, transparent proof of concrete skills. They help companies to distinguish real experts from frauds.
Do all accessibility experts have to be certified? Of course not. There are other ways to prove your expertise. For example, if you have been designing accessible websites or apps for many years and can show them as references.
In any case, I am happy about my certifications. They represent key milestones in my career as an accessibility expert. And the badge I earned just looks cool! 😉