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
- 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 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. I once sat through 30 minutes of watching a presenter try to get his laptop to work with the projector before I got up and left. You must be very comfortable with the wide array of software and hardware used in accessibility training work. This especially applies to 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, 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. The skill sets and knowledge that surround web accessibility are large enough to keep all of us busy for a very long time. It is an effective web accessibility trainer who is constantly seeking to expand his or her skills and knowledge that will be the 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. If you don't have a publicly accessible web site, I'd suggest getting one. WebAIM puts a great deal of effort in making our own site accessible. We pride ourselves in applying many accessibility techniques, yet we are always finding ways to improve. Much of what we have learned about accessibility has come through developing and testing our own site.
- Keep up-to-date on web accessibility. There are constantly new technologies that are available for accessing the web. With every new version of HTML, web browser, or operating system comes a new set of 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 e-mail 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. In fact, most of the time when I have a specific accessibility question, I just search the WebAIM list archives and quickly find the answer.
- Attend accessibility training events. There are many accessibility training sessions that are readily available. Many web development and technology conferences offer accessibility training sessions. Several 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, including your home via the Internet. 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. 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. Our desire and motivation to increase our skills and knowledge will not only make us more effective at what we do, but could also greatly impact countless individuals with disabilities who may soon have access to content because of our willingness and effectiveness in teaching web accessibility.