Accessibility Certification: The Devil is in the Details

This past month WebAIM staff had an opportunity to attend CSUN 2012. As always, CSUN was a great opportunity to see what others are doing, share what we’ve been up to, and connect with good friends in the accessibility world. Prior to the conference, the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) hosted an all-day meeting to discuss the establishment of a society of accessibility professionals. As part of this meeting, I was asked to participate on a panel to discuss whether creating professional certification in accessibility would provide a solution or create a bigger problem in the field. The meeting itself, along with its focus, created quite a lot of discussion beforehand (e.g., Knowbility’s blog being only one of them) and afterward (What does it take to call yourself an accessibility expert? and Is there a need for a professional accessibility society?). We are all better for engaging in substantive discussions that impact accessibility outcomes.

Chicken and Egg Market Dilemma

We are currently in a chicken-and-egg market dilemma with respect to accessibility needs and professional skills. On the one hand we have employers saying that there are insufficient numbers of professionals in accessibility available for them to hire. Employers consider this a failure of training and contend that they should not be penalized for this reality or be required to hire people that simply don’t exist. Thus they don’t “require” accessibility skills upon hiring. Because of this, there is not a market requiring those skills.

On the other hand, there have been attempts to provide the field with training programs that produce accessibility professionals even when it is not apparent that there is a market for them. Many colleges and universities, both in the US and abroad, have created preservice training programs over the years with accessibility as a focal point. The programs are almost impossible to sustain over time as they are viewed as serving a small niche that is not valued (read: “required”) by employers, and have only a few students take advantage of the opportunity.

Thus the cycle continues with employers looking to the outputs of training programs and training programs looking to the needs and requirements of employers.

WebAIM’s Perspective

WebAIM is one of many groups who have had internal discussions for years on the merits and challenges inherent in professional certification. If it were an easy thing to accomplish I think we would have done so long ago. We do believe that the concept of accessibility certification would be a helpful way to ensure quality professional practice in the workforce. With that said, we also feel that there are at least six critical issues that need to be addressed before a professional certification would be valuable within the field. Each issue is briefly summarized below. As you can imagine, for us the devil is in the details.

Issue number one

It is critical that certification is intended for professionals from all sectors. Examples would include those from industry, government, commerce, education, NGO groups, and health care. If certification were to be customized to any small segment, it would lose the importance of broad applicability. Any employer should be able to turn to this certification as proof of skill level, and not skill level customized for the needs of a narrow constituency.

While most would agree with this premise, it comes into play as other issues are addressed, for example, when talking about funding a system of professional certification. While those in industry may have membership fees paid by their employer, such a practice is not allowable in education and most NGO’s. If the membership fee is a couple of hundred dollars a year this may be a non-issue, however, what could be the effect if it were $600 a year or more? I would predict that over time this organization would contain greater numbers of members from industry. If this were to happen what would be the impact to cross-sector applicability over time as the membership demands greater customization to their unique interests?

Issue number two

The certification that results from this effort must be based on an individual’s performance and not on attendance or completion of any training or education experience. While most would agree with this, we must consider plans for how performance-based appraisal would occur. For example, where do these activities take place? It is unlikely that a professional member group would host site-based testing opportunities all across the globe. Moreover the personnel seeking certification would likely expect asynchronous online testing to obtain certification. Yet such testing creates the very context that continues to rock the distance-education world. Namely, e-verification of the person who is taking the test or completing the tasks. To the extent that potential employers require certification – a desired goal to be sure – pressures may exist that could lead to practices antithetical to the verification of individual professional skills.

Issue number three

While we are talking about performance-based testing, there are several issues that affect quality testing as the basis for certification. Let us be clear, if this certification is used as any part of employment decisions, it must be rock solid; we would want it so even if not used in employment. Whatever is developed must contain the highest levels of both internal and external validity. Those not familiar with creating valid, robust testing items probably should not do so. Central to a quality test is a quality-testing standard. Stakeholders representing divergent sectors should create the specific testing standard and individuals with disabilities must be part of this group. Now don’t get me wrong, when I talk about testing standards my starting point is WCAG 2.0, as the international standard. However with that said, exactly what is being tested? What is the scope, depth, and diversity of this performance-based measure?

Here are examples of what I mean: Would we ask an individual to identify accessibility issues, repair an issue given to them, or create content free of issues? Since each of these requires a different level of skill we need to know what we want; With form labels mapping to 6 different success criteria within WCAG 2.0, which is tested? Or is each tested in some redundant fashion? Would we judge the use of ARIA for labeling to be OK if they could have used HTML?

As you can see, a great deal of thought must be brought to the specifics of the testing standards. We cannot afford to be reductionists, stating that we’ll test for WCAG 2.0. It is much more complicated than that.

We also think it vital that these testing standards are continuously developed as our understanding and use of technologies expand over time. Moreover, we feel strongly that any resulting testing specification would be publically available, at no cost. This is important so that preparation for certification could come from many sources, including the ability for an individual to prepare him or herself if they so choose. Public availability of the testing standards would also provide the opportunity for continuous feedback into the system and keep it relevant to the needs of professionals.

Issue number four

We feel that for accessibility certification to be taken seriously it needs to be operated by an existing respected independent professional organization and insured to do so. Any group with suspect motives, or one that springs up just to take on this initiative, would probably not get the needed participation or collaboration from those currently in the field. This group then needs to figure out who is evaluating the tests that come in from those seeking certification. Clearly, the personnel used to judge performance must, themselves, be beyond reproach in the field. Moreover, legal challenges to the operation of testing and certification are likely to follow as they have in just about every other professional certificate; this makes sense in the context of certification as a gate-keeper for some employment opportunities.

Issue number five

Costs need to be reasonable to attain, and maintain, certification. Everyone in this discussion agrees that there should be an initial certification with professional paths that would allow for continuation of certification in regular cycles. In other words, this should not be a one-shot deal. However, I have not heard anyone talk about the costs of doing this – both for the person who receives certification and the group who does the work to offer it. This will be important as cycles of continued certification are defined; for example, if you must pay to recertify every two years versus every five.

Issue number six

Finally, WebAIM believes that this certification process must be a living entity. Technologies and techniques change what it is that a professional does to ensure accessibility. The testing standards and the certification(s) themselves must reflect this fluidity. Failure to create a mechanism for continuous updates, or changes, to certification would be its ultimate death as the certificate would quickly be out of touch with what is needed in the field. With that said, would this require new performance-based testing or evidence of education on the matter, and in what cycles (e.g., 6 months, yearly)? Depending on the profession you choose to look at you’ll see different mechanisms. While many educators retain licensure by working in the field and obtaining continuing education credits, physicians who wish to use new surgical procedures must not only be trained, but undergo a practice-based evaluation. I suspect that some areas of the field are more like educators and others are more like surgeons.

Conclusion

WebAIM will continue to discuss these, and other, issues that pertain to professional certification in web accessibility, as they are important to the field. We invite you to make comments below. It is our hope that over the coming years, each issue will be resolved and we can all begin the work to help establish certification of professional skills in web accessibility.

Comments

  1. Roger Hudson

    Many thanks for this concise outline of the issues. While certification might be a nice idea, the devil as you say lies in the details of what it will involve, how to ensure validity/reliability of the certification and of course the cost.

  2. Jim Tobias

    Thanks, Cyndi — well analyzed and well put.

    I think the 2 most important points you raise are:

    1. Economic justification. Will those using and paying for accessibility services adhere to the certification model, or hire/use anyone they want? Will programs such as Section 508 require certification in any form? Will the costs of professional training and testing pay off for the practitioner or anyone else in the food chain? These are tough questions. Maybe we should interview the folks at RESNA, who’ve been going through this for 30 years and more.

    2. Skill churn. If I got certified 2 years ago, how valuable are those skills and thus my certification, today? If I have to get re-certified every year, will it be worth it? In your analogy, I think accessibility is more like surgery — maybe even worse. Surgeons have a lot of continuing ed. to do, but are they certified to perform a certain new type of procedure, or just certified in general and it’s assumed that their own professional norms plus hospital oversight will keep things in check?

    One additional point I think is important is breadth of coverage, and possible sub-specialties. Would a certification cover only web, or all ICT access issues (hardware, telecom, media, etc.)? There are a lot of people I would trust to find and fix screen reader problems who know nothing about captioning. Or even description, for that matter.

    Personally, I’m not optimistic about the value or feasibility of certification until we have some consensus on the right way to do this stuff — a set of practices that maybe 80% of practitioners would agree on. As you know, that’s another lively issue also under discussion. Search for ‘a11ybok’ to join in that fun.

  3. Karl Groves

    This is an excellent and insightful post on an important topic. IMO whether or not a certification exists is not as important as increasing knowledge about accessibility. I have six IT-related certifications. Five of those certifications have had zero impact on my employability and three of them are so worthless that I don’t even list them on my resume. So the value of a certification is a matter up for debate. I would only seriously consider pursuing such a certification if it had considerable rigor behind it and, as Jim astutely notes, even that is a tad difficult to define.

    In either case, we need to address ignorance both outside and inside the accessibility community. The creation of accessible ICT products and services is dependent upon knowledge existing among all persons involved in that development. Such knowledge is shockingly low and, as a consequence accessibility is often handed off to subject matter experts who often are also lacking in necessary skills and knowledge.

    As Peter Korn noted in his presentation at the ATIA session, the technical landscape is changing in extremely rapid and complex ways and keeping up with those changes is a constant struggle. Whether or not it is tied to a certification, we absolutely must address the need to train development staff and accessibility SMEs.

  4. Lara Dolin

    I am excited to see the accessibility profession perhaps moving in this direction. I think for those of us that act in a regulatory position in terms of ensuring that work products created by others meet accessibility standards, having a professional certification would give our positions some teeth, rather than having our reviews and recommendations come off more as useful suggestions that may or may not be ignored.

    I work for the Federal Government, and coordinate with several outside contractors to remediate a good deal of the work produced in-house, and I am disheartened by the fact that many times, these contractors don’t do a thorough job with their remediation and when taken to task on their lack of performance, feel they can argue that they have done a complete job because there is no “certified accessibility professional” giving approval to the work they’ve completed.

    Yearly certification/recertification or continuing education is a must, as accessiblity tools, laws, and practices evolve as time goes by.

    I’ll definitely keep my eyes open to watch how this develops and hope that I can be a part of the tide of official professionalism that the workers in the accessibility world need.

  5. Radek Pavlicek

    Thank´s for interesting blogpost. At the first look, accessibility certification in general seems to be a good idea. But as you said, details are crucial and I´m not sure that finding a solution, that could be bring to life and will reflect reality, is easy and feasible.

    Personally I think that the best proof of person´s skills and professionalism is his work itself. If somebody regularly writes technical articles about accessibility (and other professionals can read them and express their opinion in comments), have papers at conferences/workshops, do accessibility testing, educate, etc., let´s say increase his credibility in general – and have excelent results, of course ;-) , I think that this is much better proof that he´s an accessibility expert than some kind of certificate that he is given after passing an “exam”.

    Besides, it can easily happen, that there will be two professionals holding the same certificate (from the formal point of view they are both the same experts), but in reality one of them will be better expert than the other.

    On the other hand, some kind of certification should be useful, especially in government field, where such certificate can be used as an excelent support for promoting accessibility and increasing importance of results of accessibility testing and audits, etc.

    I´m looking forward to future development in this area.

  6. Ryan Benson

    I would like to add on to what Jim said.

    First at CSUN, I heard a few people flat out say “that 508 is dead, and if somebody is only doing 508 they are kind of a joke to the accessibility world.” This upset and enraged me a lot, because clearly they don’t know what it is like to work for a federal agency. At a pre-planning stage I can talk about all these pie-in-the-sky ideas and get WCAG fully covered. However myself and/or the other individual who works with me, rarely gets invited to those sessions. We usually get called in at 2-4 weeks out prior to deployment for testing. The reality (hence why I got upset at the statement above) is unless I can directly map something to 508, I cannot require it be done at that point – cause there is no legal ground for me to stand.

    So, if I did this for work, re-certifing for 508 yearly would almost be a waste of time. Either I would know the material well, or like I stated, there would be no legal ground for me to apply the new stuff. The completion date of the 508 Refresh has been moved tons of times, if 508 was updated regularly, certification would be beneficial. My colleague and I are still trying to get ARIA on the agenda to talk about it, we aren’t even at the stage of implementing it.

  7. Florian Hamberger

    Thank you for this interesting post. A certificate is a nice thing – a paper to look at. But it doesn’t really tell if the certificate owner is really able to put theory into practice. So I think there are some good places to have websites evaluated for accessibility and any web developer who seriously considers accessibility can learn a lot from these evaluations.
    As you say, technologies change with the time, and so do evaluation programs. So using them regularly will keep one (hopefully) up to date.

  8. Kevin Crow

    I think the concept of Accessibility certification certainly has merit. As I read through the article and subsequent posts, I could not help thinking about a recent certification process that I recently went through. This certification was in the area of “Sailing”. The particular organization that granted the certification (American Sailing Association) offers several levels of certification ranging from their most basic certification (ASA101) which is a basic introductory course, through certification of skills skippering a sailboat across the ocean. They also offer many certifications of intermediate skills. In the real world, most charter companies require that sailors have at least ASA-103 and ASA 104 intermediate certifications before they will trust you with one of their boats.

    I wonder if such an arrangement might not also work well for the certification of professionals in the area of online Accessibility. That is there could be several levels of certification. The first and most basic could be one that certifies that the participant has demonstrated a basic level of knowledge and awareness regarding accessibility. More advanced certifications could then be attained on specific intermediate and advanced topics. I could see several advantages to this model. First, it would offer a lower barrier to entry for individuals than would a comprehensive certificate, yet at the same time, giving individuals an excellent introduction to the issues centering on online accessibility. Second, individuals could build on this initial experience by seeking additional certification in specified areas on online certification. This would make the process flexible, adaptable, and robust.

    With all of that said, I must concur with Dr. Rowland’s statement: “The Devil is in the details”.

  9. Olivier Nourry (@OlivierNourry)

    Excellent article about a delicate topic. The issues are certainly well analyzed, and your concerns are worthy of consideration.

    In this regard, you might be interested in the Accessiweb’s experience. Being actively involved both as a contractor and a volunteer in their works, I can bring an insight I hope you’ll find useful.

    At its core, Accessiweb is a reference list created in 2003 by Braillenet, a French non-profit association. Since 2010 the reference list is fully conformant with the WCAG 2.0. It’s associated with a training program, which delivers a professional certificate to people who successfully meet these criteria:
    • having followed the 5 days initial training;
    • having worked collaboratively on the detailed assessment of a real website (presented to the training group and a jury);
    • having passed a 2-hour test, where candidates must detect all the level AA non-conformities on a given page. There is also a multiple-choice test, to verify the acquisition of background knowledge about Web accessibility.

    At the end of the 7-day course, trainees who get a score of at least 16, out of 20, are certified.

    Braillenet has always been very specific about the fact that their certificate recognizes only the ability to assess Web pages through their reference list, no more. Yet, this formula is very successful, since there’s no real equivalent, in France at least. Over 500 professionals have been certified so far (roughly half of those who took the test). Since they integrate directly the GTA (Accessiweb Work Group, formed by their fellow certified assessors), Braillenet can claim one of the largest communities of professionals sharing a common background in accessibility. The GTA is put at work when new lists, or documents, or even R&D works are initiated by Braillenet. Training sessions, seminars and conferences massively involve some of the most prominent members, some of which have long-term contracts.
    Let’s see how this program stands against the potential issues you raise.

    Issue #1: “It is critical that certification is intended for professionals from all sectors”. In Accessiweb’s case, very simplified by the fact that it deals only with Web accessibility. There’s a prerequisite: to attend the training, and hope being certified, the candidate must be sufficiently proficient in front-end Web technologies. Most attendees are web designers and web developers. However, a significant share of UX or SEO specialists, project managers, and procurement managers take at least the initial 5-day course, even if not all of them take the test. All sectors are represented, including non-profits, administrations, private companies of all sizes, and individuals (self-employed, students, entrepreneurs, etc.).

    Issue #2: “The certification that results from this effort must be based on an individual’s performance”. Obviously achieved by the Accessiweb certificate. Unfortunately, this model does not help with regards to on-line training and certifications. Nothing takes place on-line, as for now, all sessions and exams are delivered in Paris. Hard to transfer this model elsewhere, since France is a relatively small territory, completely Paris-centric. So it’s more or less acceptable in our context, although obviously the training would reach more people if delocalized to other economic centers.

    Issue #3: “several issues affect quality testing as the basis for certification”. Absolutely right. The Accessiweb certificate is very clear on the objective: to verify your ability to assess a Web page against the Accessiweb reference list, no more, no less. The list itself is clearly presented as a way to assess conformance against WCAG 2.0, with regards to HTML, General Techniques, and Scripts, period. The notion of Web page is extended to the downloadable documents it contains, thus the “HTML” list has a companion document dedicated to PDF and the like. Yet this ability is not tested formally during the course. The reason is historical: the Accessiweb system existed in parallel with the WCAG 1.0, where things were much simpler. As for now, the current system is inherited from this older one. There’s certainly matter for diversification, at the cost of complexity, and clarity.
    By the way, the full reference list is freely available on line, in French and in English, as well as the companion documents (in French only). They are available under the conditions of the W3C Documents License, which allows a wide range of uses, with few restrictions.

    Issue #4: “it needs to be operated by an existing respected independent professional organization”. Braillenet meets these criteria, by their international reputation of excellence, their non-profit status, and the fact that they are a member of the W3C. Their individuals’ certification makes totally sense with their overall objectives, and the existence of an associated websites certification system (the “Accessiweb label”). Other initiatives in the same direction did not take root so far, coming from specialized companies (non-neutral by nature), and that may be a reason for this low adoption, among other factors.

    Issue #5: “Costs need to be reasonable to attain, and maintain, certification”. The cost of the Accessiweb certification is significant: EUR 3.500 (USD 4.670 at the time of writing) for the full course, plus 7 days out of the office, plus an estimated average of 80 hours of personal work for the group presentation, plus accommodation and catering costs for those living far from the training center. But the recognized quality of the course, and the interest for having a well-respected certificate, seem to balance the cost, for a fair share of people (roughly 100 candidates per year, for one training center only). Indeed, some employers take this certificate very seriously, for it enhances their commercial scope and participates in their credibility. It’s not uncommon to see the certificate displayed prominently in e-mail signatures, and on-line bios and resumes (Google “expert Accessiweb en evaluation” to check this out). I can also testify first-hand that some contracts are secured thanks to the active claim of expertise, associated to the certificate by some companies and individuals. So there’s a clear driver to invest that sum for those who plan a career, or set up a commercial offer, related to Web Accessibility in France.

    Issue #6: “this certification process must be a living entity”. In this respect, Accessiweb is both a positive and negative model. There’s been a major overhaul in 2010, to convert the reference list to the then new WCAG 2.0. It involved a leveling-up of all previous certified members, based on a 2-day course concluded with a control exam. Not everyone took that course, so there are indeed two categories of certified members, depending on their ability or will to keep up with the new version of the reference list. There’s no maintenance whatsoever of the certificate though: once acquired, it’s for life… so those who claim an old certificate, without any practice in the meantime, are not clearly differentiated from those who actively use their proficiency at a professional level.
    I hope these elements bring a useful light to your current thinking. I’d be glad to discuss this any further if you wish.

    Olivier Nourry
    Business Development Manager, Qelios
    Expert Accessiweb en Évaluation ;-)

  10. Olivier Nourry (@OlivierNourry)

    Hi,
    just discovered this other certification program, in Australia:
    http://www.unisa.edu.au/cil/future/pcwa.asp
    Delivered online over 6 weeks, for $2080. Can be counted for further university studies (NB: also the case for the Accessiweb program, to some extent).

  11. John Bugbee

    Hi Cyndi,

    Thank you for the interesting post. I’ve been working in accessibility for a few years (in the CSU system), and continually see parallels between digital accessibility and digital security.

    The computer security field would provide an instructive model to the accessibility field, when it comes to certification. Industry and government needed a way of identifying security experts, and CISSP was developed. Since then, graduate programs have sprung up and been refined to fulfill the demand for trained professionals. I believe that the same can be achieved in our field.

    CISSP is managed by a non-profit organization, the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, formed in 1989. The cost is ~$550, and must be renewed every three years. The material covers a broad range of topics, applicable to multiple specializations. Requirements for certification are:
    1) 5 years of experience, a BS, or MS in the field.
    2) Accept a code of ethics.
    3) Pass a 6 hour multiple choice exam.

    I think that a large consideration is what an accessibility certification would cover, as Jim mentioned in his post.

  12. Allen Hoffman

    You wrote:
    Issue number one

    It is critical that certification is intended for professionals from all sectors. Examples would include those from industry, government, commerce, education,
    NGO groups, and health care. If certification were to be customized to any small segment, it would lose the importance of broad applicability. Any employer
    should be able to turn to this certification as proof of skill level, and not skill level customized for the needs of a narrow constituency.

    While most would agree with this premise, it comes into play as other issues are addressed, for example, when talking about funding a system of professional
    certification. While those in industry may have membership fees paid by their employer, such a practice is not allowable in education and most NGO’s. If
    the membership fee is a couple of hundred dollars a year this may be a non-issue, however, what could be the effect if it were $600 a year or more? I would
    predict that over time this organization would contain greater numbers of members from industry. If this were to happen what would be the impact to cross-sector
    applicability over time as the membership demands greater customization to their unique interests?

    Response:
    I think you need to consider building this step-by-step. Boiling the ocean, and requiring a single certification to cover every area where accessibility can come up might be more than nearly anyone is ready to take on, or even actually perform. Focused certifications can be packaged in to hierarchies, and allow for building a certification set by demand and preference.

    You wrote:
    Issue number two

    The certification that results from this effort must be based on an individual’s performance and not on attendance or completion of any training or education
    experience. While most would agree with this, we must consider plans for how performance-based appraisal would occur. For example, where do these activities
    take place? It is unlikely that a professional member group would host site-based testing opportunities all across the globe. Moreover the personnel seeking
    certification would likely expect asynchronous online testing to obtain certification. Yet such testing creates the very context that continues to rock
    the distance-education world. Namely, e-verification of the person who is taking the test or completing the tasks. To the extent that potential employers
    require certification – a desired goal to be sure – pressures may exist that could lead to practices antithetical to the verification of individual professional
    skills.

    Response:
    cisco and Microsoft have certification programs which operate remotely, and I think such can be accomplished for accessibility as well. Cheating could happen, but shouldn’t be considered as a primary obstacle to success. I think hands-on training is invaluable for educating people about IT accessibility, assistive technologies especially, but with sufficient creativity, remote learning can do most of this.

    You wrote:
    Issue number three

    While we are talking about performance-based testing, there are several issues that affect quality testing as the basis for certification. Let us be clear,
    if this certification is used as any part of employment decisions, it must be rock solid; we would want it so even if not used in employment. Whatever
    is developed must contain the highest levels of both internal and external validity. Those not familiar with creating valid, robust testing items probably
    should not do so. Central to a quality test is a quality-testing standard. Stakeholders representing divergent sectors should create the specific testing
    standard and individuals with disabilities must be part of this group. Now don’t get me wrong, when I talk about testing standards my starting point is
    WCAG 2.0, as the international standard. However with that said, exactly what is being tested? What is the scope, depth, and diversity of this performance-based
    measure?

    Here are examples of what I mean: Would we ask an individual to identify accessibility issues, repair an issue given to them, or create content free of
    issues? Since each of these requires a different level of skill we need to know what we want; With form labels mapping to 6 different success criteria
    within WCAG 2.0, which is tested? Or is each tested in some redundant fashion? Would we judge the use of ARIA for labeling to be OK if they could have
    used HTML?

    As you can see, a great deal of thought must be brought to the specifics of the testing standards. We cannot afford to be reductionists, stating that we’ll
    test for WCAG 2.0. It is much more complicated than that.

    We also think it vital that these testing standards are continuously developed as our understanding and use of technologies expand over time. Moreover,
    we feel strongly that any resulting testing specification would be publically available, at no cost. This is important so that preparation for certification
    could come from many sources, including the ability for an individual to prepare him or herself if they so choose. Public availability of the testing standards
    would also provide the opportunity for continuous feedback into the system and keep it relevant to the needs of professionals.

    Response:
    We have been doing Section 508 testing certifications at DHS for a couple years now. We currently do a 4 day class with hands on training and a final exam of hands on testing following our testing procedures. We have experimented with doing online practice and exam but it needs a lot more work to be considered as a replacement–but should be feasible with much more work. To certify people in testing you have to set a test process you certify them for, the more complicated the process the more difficult training and certification exams are. For each identified test condition, e.g. “do images have alternate text”, with sub-sets, pass/fail ranges and criteria must be defined and taught. If ARIA is an acceptable success criteria to meet a test condition, then it must be taught with clear pass/fail examples and hands-on exercises. Its not easy, and can’t be reduced to WCAG 2.0 certification. Note, we require studentes to take intro to section 508 first, and have minimum HTML knowledge or they never pass.

    You wrote:
    Issue number four

    We feel that for accessibility certification to be taken seriously it needs to be operated by an existing respected independent professional organization
    and insured to do so. Any group with suspect motives, or one that springs up just to take on this initiative, would probably not get the needed participation
    or collaboration from those currently in the field. This group then needs to figure out who is evaluating the tests that come in from those seeking certification.
    Clearly, the personnel used to judge performance must, themselves, be beyond reproach in the field. Moreover, legal challenges to the operation of testing
    and certification are likely to follow as they have in just about every other professional certificate; this makes sense in the context of certification
    as a gate-keeper for some employment opportunities.

    Response:
    W3C/WAI is a logical candidate for a start of one certification name recognition, but what else has to take place is a common agreement on what is taught across the community of practice. Getting more consensus is what will take hard work, more than developing and deploying training. Alternately as long as someone can get this started without suspect motives I think it can take off. We are receiving enormous interest here but can’t train the world.

    You wrote:
    Issue number five

    Costs need to be reasonable to attain, and maintain, certification. Everyone in this discussion agrees that there should be an initial certification with
    professional paths that would allow for continuation of certification in regular cycles. In other words, this should not be a one-shot deal. However, I
    have not heard anyone talk about the costs of doing this – both for the person who receives certification and the group who does the work to offer it.
    This will be important as cycles of continued certification are defined; for example, if you must pay to recertify every two years versus every five.

    Response:
    By building individual courses to get certified costs can be broken down but not always minimized.

    You wrote:
    Issue number six

    Finally, WebAIM believes that this certification process must be a living entity. Technologies and techniques change what it is that a professional does
    to ensure accessibility. The testing standards and the certification(s) themselves must reflect this fluidity. Failure to create a mechanism for continuous
    updates, or changes, to certification would be its ultimate death as the certificate would quickly be out of touch with what is needed in the field. With
    that said, would this require new performance-based testing or evidence of education on the matter, and in what cycles (e.g., 6 months, yearly)? Depending
    on the profession you choose to look at you’ll see different mechanisms. While many educators retain licensure by working in the field and obtaining continuing
    education credits, physicians who wish to use new surgical procedures must not only be trained, but undergo a practice-based evaluation. I suspect that
    some areas of the field are more like educators and others are more like surgeons.

    Response:
    Agreed, but keeping consensus on what is “right” to teach is going to very very hard at first.

    Finally:
    Certification is needed by government at the minimum, and employers who develop for us in particular. Employers can’t know if people they hire can meet contract requirements when developing or testing products, and government can’t have any level of comfort with acquisitions without growing our ow testers either. We need this to move from the chef to the fast-food level of availability and the only way to get there is through common agreed upon baseline accessibility education for various stakeholders including developers, testers, project managers, content creators, etc. There are many areas of focus which can be developed with certifications, but I don’t vebelieve an all encompassing certification is reasonable, because its too much, and few if any would actually do everything.

    So, in my opinion this needs to be broken in to small doable components, e.g. web tester certification, could even be website tester and web ap tester sub components. Common agreements on what is taught need to be developed with the right set of folks, and then training developed, exams certified, and operators identified. I would stress operators, as in plural to get this considered standard educational work as opposed to a single organization’s certification. Certifying organizations to deliver the training and exams would help move it out to the masses. Pricing might vary but that is a market force that I think needs to be left to what works.

    OK, enough for now but I’d love to chat with you about thisfurther.

  13. Pina D'Intino

    The topic of accessibility certification has been a hot item for discussion for quite some time. I have to agree with much of what has been shared so far’ it is required, it needs to be credible and fluid, needs to be supported and proven, etc. As the accessibility and inclusion dialogue continues to gain momentum as a result of new standards, technologyes and regulations, the demand for expertise and knowledge continues to grow expediously. Many organizations are questioning the dollars some “experts” are charging or demanding for their services to achieve accessible design and yet there is no reputable credential to support those costs or expertise. For the last several years, the evolution of inclusive design which includes accessibility has resulted in many new programs, approaches, tools and processes. Many provide value, some not so much. I believe there has been significant growth in recognizing and providing excellent training in this field (Accessiweb, braillenet, IDRC and OCAD in Canada, programs in the UK, etc. So there needs to be a way for these programs to be leveraged and synchronised to some degree, see how they can complement each other and build the “accessibility program” that can be adjustable to the persons needs (developer, tester, policy makers, etc) and follow a common practice for certification similarly to the CISS, PPMI, etc. These are proven approaches and they are sustainable in the way that one must continue to upgrade their skills every 2 – 3 years through experience , methodologies and re-test. One may choose to certify or one may simply choose to build their skills and knowledge, but ultimately the choice is left up to the individual. For an organization, they would at least have something to base themselves on when considering a service provider or potential canadidate.
    I also agree that as we progress, we must continue to promote the inclusion of accessibility training and requirements included in pedagogy and many computer design/engineering programs to truly make a difference. I understand ATIA, was looking at a possible certification approach, but I did not get the sense they were going to go beyond “awareness” or basic training. RESNA may have a good foundation to cover different types of disability services, not too sure that the in-depth technology and design is a good fit for them.
    I’d like to see a way to evaluate and recognize the good programs vs those who think they’ve got it. The creation of a certification program is quite the task, but I believe it can be achieved if we actually setup a true working committee, set goals, timelines, include the appropriate stakeholders and avoid some of the unnecessary competition amongst those who are trying to make a differentce. This is a topic that is close to my heart and would love to continue the discussion, but most importantly be part of a group that is serious about developing this.