Expanding Your Training Skills and Knowledge
Accessibility Trainer Skills
Becoming an effective accessibility trainer and teacher does not happen overnight. For some, the ability to effectively teach others comes naturally. For others, a lot of work is involved. An accessibility trainer must be a Jack-of-all-trades, and an Ace of a few as well. The more tools you have at your convenience, the more effective you will be. Here are just a few of the skills you may need as web accessibility trainers:
- Teaching ability
- Communication skills (verbal and written)
- Web design
- Web development
- Graphic design
- Multimedia production
- Instructional design
- Organizational skills
- Time management
- File management
- Presentation development
If you are teaching the technical aspects of web accessibility, you should generally have a deep understanding of HTML and web design.
As an accessibility trainer, you often must be able to get 'under the hood' of a web page and into the HTML code. Although having a working knowledge of common web development software programs are important, many of the accessibility fixes and techniques cannot be accomplished through software programs alone. An intimate knowledge of HTML is one of the most valuable skills you can have.
Along with that knowledge comes a need for in-depth computer skills. In a training session, you need to know your computer and your software well enough to work out any problems or inconsistencies that may arise. You must be very comfortable with the wide array of software and hardware used in accessibility work, especially assistive technologies.
Perhaps the most important skill a web accessibility trainer can have is an understanding of how individuals with disabilities access the web. Access principles and technologies, such as screen readers, Braille displays, and alternative input switches, are what drive accessibility standards and techniques. Being familiar with how individuals with disabilities use the web will give you an understanding of why specific accessibility techniques are needed.
As you probably already knew, you can never know all there is to know about web accessibility. An effective web accessibility trainer is constantly seeking to expand their skills and knowledge to be most effective.
Expanding Your Skills and Knowledge
Here are a few suggestions on how to continually enhance your teaching ability
- Practice what you preach. Many of the skills necessary to teach others about web accessibility are gained through developing and experiencing accessible content yourself.
- Keep up-to-date on web accessibility. New technologies are continually available for accessing the web. Every update to WCAG, HTML, web browsers, or operating systems comes with a new set of features or issues that can affect web accessibility. Web accessibility trainers must keep abreast of what is happening in the field. Two great resources for keeping up-to-date are the WebAIM discussion list and the WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative) list. These email-based discussion forums are very active with accessibility experts and beginners alike. If you have questions, they are a great place to find answers. Subscribing and reading the lists is sure to give you a lot of valuable information. The archives of each list have a wealth of information in them.
- Attend accessibility training events. There are many accessibility training sessions that are readily available. Many web development and technology conferences offer accessibility training sessions. Many are available online. You can often learn a great deal about accessibility and strategies for effectively teaching accessibility by watching someone else teach it or by observing methods of online teaching.
- Go to school. You can attend professional advancement courses in many locations or online. Brush up on your computer skills, learn a new software program, develop your communication skills, or practice your teaching techniques by attending local or online classes.
- Find additional ways to train others. Set up training events at local schools, businesses, or government institutions. Many web design and development instructors would be thrilled to have you as a guest speaker for an hour to talk about web accessibility. Submit proposals or applications to local trade shows or conferences to provide web accessibility training and presentations. The more you are able to teach, the more effective you will likely be.
Take a few minutes and write down some ways in which you can personally increase your training abilities, skills, and knowledge within the next year. Be specific and set timelines for achieving these goals. Post these goals in a place where you will see them often and make every effort to achieve them.
In a way, until the entire web is accessible, web accessibility trainers have a lot of work to do. Your desire and motivation to increase your skills and knowledge will not only make you more effective at what you do but could also greatly impact individuals with disabilities who may soon have access to content because of your willingness and effectiveness in teaching web accessibility.