The UK branch of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) launched at the TechShare Pro conference in London on 23 November. The IAAP started in 2014 with 31 founding members including AbilityNet and Microsoft and has now grown to members in 40 different countries and recently launched chapters in the UK, India, and the Nordic countries. It is a membership organisation for all people involved with digital accessibility working with websites, software, hardware, content and services. IAAP offers programs to support the advancement of skills and ways to demonstrate achievement of those skills and can be of particular interest to those working in web development and UX.
TechShare pro was a sold out one-day conference organised by AbilityNet and RNIB and sponsored by Barclays, IBM, Microsoft, OrCam and Storm. As well as IAAP UK members it featured experts from the Google, Barclays, IBM and the BBC. Alongside practical sessions about accessible design much of the focus was on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, which could transform the lives of the world’s one billion disabled people (Unicef figure).
Employing qualified web accessibility experts
Launching the IAAP, managing director of the body Sharon Spencer (pictured below second from left), said:
“The aim is to help organisations integrate accessibility into their products and infrastructure and provide a professional qualification for accessibility professionals. We offer certification and these qualifications are something organisations can look for when employing experts to work on their websites to ensure they comply with the law.”
The majority of websites in the UK are not fully accessible to people who have sight or hearing loss and other disabilities. Accessibility is not taught as part of mainstream digital education at any level, and it is common for web developers to be unaware of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
AbilityNet CEO Nigel Lewis (Twitter: @NigelLewis18) has been involved in IAAP since its inception and sees a huge opportunity to recognise the skills of accessibility professionals:
"I amd personally very proud to be a founder of the IAAP and AbilityNet fully supports its mission to help grow and develop the accessibility profession. We want accessibility to be recognised as a profession on a par with User Design & Experience, Development, Testing and Security and other disciplines IT profession. This will be a key factor in driving the delivery and uptake of accessible and inclusive technology, which in turn will help millions of disabled and older people around the world."
"IAAP provides a place for accessibility professionals around the world to gather, share experiences and enrich their knowledge of accessibility. The certification programme aims to better define what accessibility professionals are expected to know and increase the quality and consistency of work in this space.
Students of the accreditation will be given details on what kinds of skills they need in order to pass multiple choice tests, showcasing their knowledge. There are several certifications available:
- The Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC)
This represents broad, cross-disciplinary conceptual knowledge about disabilities, accessibility and universal design, accessibility-related standards, laws, and management strategies.
- The Web Accessibility Specialist (WAS)
This represents an individual’s detailed technical knowledge about the WCAG guidelines and other related web accessibility topics.
- Those who pass both the CPACC and the WAS exams will receive the designation of Certified Professional in Web Accessibility (CPWA).
Pankaj Bhasin (pictured second from right), an IT expert who volunteers with AbilityNet’s ITCanHelp service, said he would be looking to become accredited. “I have a Master’s Degree in Business and Information and at no point did we look at accessibility. This is something I would definitely be interested in to increase my career prospects."