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Thoughts on Accessibility Certification

Marcy SuttonMarcy Sutton

I’ve gotten a few questions about whether Testing Accessibility could be useful for accessibility certification training, such as the IAAP Web Accessibility Specialist (WAS) certification. To answer the question in a central place, I wanted to share some thoughts on this including my own approach to accessibility certification.

First and foremost, Testing Accessibility was not created as a training resource for certification specifically. There are other training offerings which could meet this need but I haven’t reviewed them myself. I have instead focused on creating general accessibility training based on my years of experience as a software engineer, public speaker, and workshop trainer specializing in web accessibility.

The topics covered in Testing Accessibility include things that have come up repeatedly in my career that I felt people learning about accessibility should know. There is likely some overlap with curricula intended for certification training but this would be more coincidental than intentional.

And here’s why: I am not accessibility certified by choice. These certs became available long after I’d worked in the field as an accessibility engineer, so personally I didn’t feel like it was necessary to advance in my career. I’ve worked in the field long enough that I haven’t needed to–and my trainings and talks have also counted toward IAAP continuing education credit in the past.

There are many opinions surrounding accessibility certification. This tweet from Julianna Rowsell comes to mind:

Tweet from Julianna RowsellLoading

The tweet reads:

I had to laugh today.
I was told I was not an expert in #accessibility. I'd be fine with someone's opinion but WHY they had that opinion that left me baffled.
Their take: not being CPACC/WAS certified must mean I couldn't pass the exam. Therefore shouldn't give #a11y advice.

I am with Julianna on this one, in that certification is not a requirement to be an expert or to give accessibility advice. It can certainly help, but it isn’t a requirement.

Still, certification can provide a pathway to learn more about accessibility in ways that can advance one’s career and it can be a good move for some. Certification also shouldn’t be discounted as a valuable tool for folks in underrepresented groups who might benefit from credentials and the associated experience.

The choice of whether to get certified for accessibility is a personal one–and ultimately, it’s up to each of us to decide. My goal as a trainer is to teach you how to level up with accessibility in development, design, and the related people skills so collectively we can make the web a more accessible place. If certification also fits into your path, I say go for it since we need all the help we can get from individuals like yourself when it comes to accessibility.

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