WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

E-mail List Archives

Re: IAAP Certification Update


From: Jon Metz
Date: Sep 14, 2015 1:00PM

I appreciate the concept of certification. I think I posed the question to
the list a long time ago and there were a number of very helpful posts
made at the time that shared why or why not it was a good idea. With all
the things I¹ve read, I still believe that our profession could benefit
from some kind of certification that proves we know our stuff. However, I
do not believe the way it¹s being done through IAAP is the way to go. So
far it seems to be presented as a method of ³weeding out the undesirables²
in order to prove one¹s muster and to highlight the arbitrary importance
of some concepts of accessibility over another. I think this direction is
detrimental to furthering the cause of promoting ICT accessibility and
professional accessibility awareness.

Paul mentioned that everyone at the IAAP is fully committed to promoting
and making the accessibility a top priority. There is not a doubt in my
mind that that¹s true. I truly believe that the companies and
organizations want to see more accessibility professionals and a
determinable level of qualifications before stating you¹re an
accessibility professional on your resume. Please note that the following
examples are not intended to criticize anyone, but merely to shed some
light on my reasoning. I truly respect the work of each of the individual
people and companies involved in IAAP, and honestly look up to many of
it¹s members as role models and even celebrities in this field.

Even with their strong desire for promoting accessibility cohesion,
there¹s an equally disturbing bias that¹s included with each
organization¹s opinion of what it takes to be considered an Accessibility
Professional. This is especially the case at its root. The Assistive
Technology Industry Association (ATIA) has been a strong opponent to any
legislation that dictates it must follow some sort of standard to follow
in adhering to Industry Standard specifications (see Proposed Rule of the
2015 ICT Refresh; Section E, 2010 and 2011 ANPRMS Significant Issues; 5.
Interoperability Requirements for Assistive Technology; 3-VV Assistive
Technology ‹ No Consensus). This opinion
flies in the face of the spirit of any Standardization process: ³You agree
to do one thing, I agree to do another thing; and we¹ll meet in the middle
to make sure things work.²

Aside from the IAAP, within the ranks of the Supporting (Founding?)
members involved there¹s been significant push-back for the kinds of
technology that must be used in order to make something accessible. At the
risk of soliciting a universal sigh from this group, PDF is often looked
upon as being similar to printed paper in it¹s accessibility ability. This
is usually stated with the same reasons and misinformation from several
³Accessibility Subject Matter Experts (SME)³ on IAAP¹s own Boards that
ignores the efforts made by the International Standards Organization
(ISO), the NVDA Goes PDF/UA Project, the Association for Information and
Image Management (AIIM), and several others involved in PDF/UA.

To wit, the very ³Center of Development Expertise (CODE) for Accessibility
Task Force Final Report² delivered by the ATIA was provided in PDF form,
and it¹s an oddly incorrectly tagged document (the cover page is a Table
for some reason). Deque, listed at the beginning of almost every page
about the IAAP has several PDFs on their web site about accessibility that
do not follow any recommendations for making an accessible PDF either,
even the rudimentary (and now severely outdated) Accessibility provisions
provided by Katie¹s work in the W3C for PDF Accessibility requirements
published in 2001.

Aside from the ugly stepchild that is PDF, DHS has a (potentially) amazing
and rigorous testing methodology outlined in it¹s Trusted Tester program.
However, their tests are made completely within a Windows environment,
using Internet Explorer alone, and are impossible to be performed from
someone who has a disability because of how it breaks the site in order to
test it. No provision has been provided for testing other aspects of ICT
aside from maybe multimedia.

This apparent focus on specific ICT is attributed to a set of opinions
that one technology is better than another, and its one of the more
frustrating things to deal with in our industry. Clients will regularly
inform me they do not need to follow accessibility provisions for Section
508 (used as example, because that¹s mostly the type of clients I have)
based on something they read from another agency. Later, when their
Section 508 office returns with a different interpretation of the law,
they return telling me it¹s the opposite. It¹s frustrating because, while
it¹s a known fact that every 508 Coordinator has a different idea of how
to interpret the rules, all Subject Matter Experts have different ideas of
what is possible to be the most accessible. I know the IAAP would say this
is why we need certification, but this advice is coming from members
organizations of the IAAP.

This brings me to the next problem. The problem with starting any
certification is that you need someone who says they are better at
something than you are, in order to provide the training and testing
required making it mean anything. You can certainly list off your resume
to us that you are the best group of people for the job, but we could
easily do the same. What¹s to say that we¹re not just as worthy as you are
in order to consider ourselves Accessibility Subject Matter Experts?
Paying $300 to take an exam only proves you either have money to throw at
someone¹s opinions of what it takes to do something and some kind of idea
that you were worse at your job than someone else. This is not the way to
go with any certification process.

Worse, the very certifications highlight the opinions and biases of the
actual organizations behind the IAAP. You can only get an Associate level
certification as a Project Management person, but if you want to consider
yourself to be an Accessibility Professional, you need to do work
primarily on the web? As an Invited Expert of the Education and Outreach
for WAI, I can tell you that our work is equally important as that of a
Web Developer because our responsibility involves interpreting the
requirements to do the work. Many of us (myself included) are not
programmers. It would be far better to have a set of individual categories
that make up a focus in one¹s career path that create a Professional
certification. Otherwise you¹re just reinventing certifications that
people can already get today, such as PMP, ACE, CompTIA, CIM, etc.

Unlike certifications for software or many other standardized processes,
the field of accessibility is a highly and personally conceptualized
field. It¹s true that one must understand ICT and have an ability to
understand what it¹s like to have a disability, but how disabilities react
to different aspects of ICT largely play a role in how something should be
made accessible. This mindset becomes more prevalent when one's work has
been driven based on one¹s own disability. I¹ve had many conversations on
this list with other professionals who adamantly believe that making
websites accessible is for one type of disability alone. Whether there is
truth to this is irrelevant. Anyone taking a test to prove their worth of
being considered an Accessibility Professional will undoubtedly interpret
many rules that apply to their preferred contextual disability. This is
going to be even more so the case when the tester is someone with a
specific disability. It¹s very hard to consider how to fill another¹s
shoes when you¹ve been wearing your own for so long.

I would prefer the IAAP to change their focus from asking what sort of
technology it takes to be considered a professional in this field, but
instead ask what type of person it takes to make an accessibility
professional. While I disagree with many of my colleagues about PDFs or
relying on one browser alone, I don¹t immediately suspect that they are
worthless in this field. That¹s the tone that the IAAP has been taking and
it isn¹t doing anybody any good.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my opinion.

Jon Metz
www.metzessible.com <http://www.metzessible.com>;

On 9/14/15, 9:11 AM, "WebAIM-Forum on behalf of Tim Harshbarger"
< <EMAIL REMOVED> on behalf of
<EMAIL REMOVED> > wrote:

>I keep seeing comments about a desire for more transparency. Would
>people be willing to describe what exactly they are looking for from an
>organization like this when it comes to transparency?
>-----Original Message-----
>From: WebAIM-Forum [mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED> ] On
>Behalf Of Roger Hudson
>Sent: Saturday, September 12, 2015 9:02 PM
>To: 'WebAIM Discussion List'
>Subject: Re: [WebAIM] IAAP Certification Update
>At the risk of pissing a few people off, I find all this IAAP stuff is
>starting to get a little tiring.
>It is hard to develop any process of certification, and this is
>particularly the case when it has to take in to account a diverse range
>of linguistic, geographic, technical, financial and cognitive issues. I
>suspect that unless the IAAP process in much more transparent (thanks
>Karl) and is affordable to all those who might be interested, it runs the
>risk of just being a self-serving promotional tool.
>Finally, in my opinion two of the most important things that are
>necessary when it comes to developing or testing accessible content are
>empathy and commonsense, and sadly neither of these are easy to teach.
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Jennison Mark Asuncion [mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED> ]
>Sent: Sunday, 13 September 2015 10:36 AM
>To: WebAIM Discussion List
>Subject: Re: [WebAIM] IAAP Certification Update
>Re your comment: "There is more than one place that you can find
>tutorials, classes, or workshops on all of these topics." I would expect
>that IAAP has/will take the lead in compiling a list of such sources to
>help prospective test takers prepare to write the exam. I for one would
>not know where to start looking, for all of these diverse topics.
>My question is what specific jobs does the IAAP envision someone holding
>an Associate Level certification being able to obtain? Or, is IAAP's
>thinking that someone would have to obtain both the Associate Level and
>one of the other planned certifications in order to help them secure
>employment in accessibility?
>On 9/12/15, Paul Bohman < <EMAIL REMOVED> > wrote:
>> Dave,
>> You asked "What would be a good first few steps to prepping for the
>> impending certification when it gets finalized?"
>> That's an excellent question. Here is the list of topics that we
>> anticipate will be on the Associate level exam (subject to a final
>> - Disabilities
>> - Theoretical Models of Disability
>> - Types of Disabilities, Challenges, and Assistive Technologies
>> - Disability Demographics
>> - Disability Etiquette
>> - Accessibility and Universal Design
>> - Individual Accommodations versus Inclusive Design
>> - Benefits of Accessibility
>> - Accessibility Principles (WCAG 2.0) (http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG/)
>> - The Principles of Universal Design 2.0 (
>> http://www.ncsu.edu/ncsu/design/cud/about_ud/udprinciplestext.htm)
>> - Universal Design for Learning (UDL) (
>> http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines)
>> - Usability and User Experience (UX)
>> - Standards, Laws, and Management Strategies
>> - International Conventions and Treaties (The Universal
>> of Human Rights, Convention on the Rights of Persons with
>> Disabilities, The
>> Marrakesh Treaty (WIPO))
>> - Accessibility Standards and Regulations
>> - National and Regional Laws
>> - Systematic Organizational Governance and Management
>> There is more than one place that you can find tutorials, classes, or
>> workshops on all of these topics. I am most familiar with the
>> resources that I have created (or collaborated on) on the Deque
>>University web site:
>> https://dequeuniversity.com/courses/ You could start with the course
>> "Web Accessibility Fundamentals," which also includes a section on
>> Universal Design in the Physical World, to supplement all the other
>> information about Universal Design for the Web.
>> And there are other similar resources on the web as well, some free,
>> some with paid subscriptions. I'll let others chime in if they want to
>> add their own resources.
>> Aside from pre-packaged curricula, you can use the outline above as a
>> study guide to do some of your own research. As soon as the Exam
>> Blueprint is validated, the IAAP will publish a complete Body of
>> Knowledge document with much more detail that can be used as a complete
>>study guide.
>> Note that the Associate level credential is not just about web
>> accessibility. It is about the broad concepts of accessibility in both
>> virtual and physical spaces. One of the goals of the credential is to
>> encourage people to think across domains, because sometimes the best
>> solutions to accessibility problems in one domain are actually in
>> another domain.
>> Paul Bohman, PhD
>> Director of Training, Deque Systems, Inc 703-225-0380, ext.121
>> https://DequeUniversity.com
>> On Fri, Sep 11, 2015 at 8:32 PM, Dave Bahr < <EMAIL REMOVED> > wrote:
>>> Ok, sorry Paul, my bad for not reading that description properly. I
>>> see what you mean now about being a tester.
>>> Um, not sure what to say to the last post in this thread because I'm
>>> not on the direct inside of all the organizations. So...for someone
>>> who is a newby at all of this. What would be a good first few steps
>>> to prepping for the impending certification when it gets finalized? I
>>> have no idea what I'm doing, and I'll freely admit that, because if I
>>> didn't, I'd be lying to myself. In the forum post I put out, someone
>>> wrote that they know a lot of people who are passionate about
>>> accessibility by providing opinions about whether the software is
>>> accessible but not necessarily providing constructive feedback with
>>> snippets of code or something to try to help the devs out. Or, at
>>> least, that's how I read it, I could again have interpreted that
>>> wrong. I fear that I may be one of those people. I can tell you when
>>> something isn't accessible for me as a user, but I couldn't
>>> necessarily tell you the exact coding on how to fix it. For example,
>>> I could tell you that if the website you were showing me didn't have
>>> headings where there could be headings, then you should put headings
>>> there so it's easier to read. But I couldn't tell you what style
>>> sheet to use and the exact html coding to do it.
>>> That's a basic example, but I hope it illustrates where I'm coming
>>> from. I have extensive knowledge about accessibility on desktop and
>>> iphone, not android, don't have the money for one right now. I guess
>>> I'm feeling overwhelmed right now as to what a good place to start
>>> is. I was advised to concentrate on mobile access and, while I
>>> completely understand why that's so important, by more knowledgable
>>> areas are in desktop and screen reader access since that's what I
>>> deal with 98 percent of the time. So, yes, I'd love to be certified,
>>> is there a book I can start with or something?
>> >> >> archives at http://webaim.org/discussion/archives
>> >>
>Jennison Mark Asuncion
>LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/jennison Follow me on Twitter
>www.twitter.com/jennison Organizer, Bay Area Accessibility and Inclusive
>Design www.meetup.com/a11ybay Organizer, Accessibility Camp Bay Area
>www.accessibilitycampbay.org Co-Founder, Global Accessibility Awareness
>Day www.globalaccessibilityawarenessday.org
>>>at http://webaim.org/discussion/archives