My Journey to CPACC Certification
How Universal Design changed my mindset, my approach, and the way I incorporate accessibility into my work every day
The very first time I encountered accessibility on the web was during my freelancing days just a few years ago.
As someone who started my web development career later in life, I felt as if I was constantly learning new brand concepts. One example would be a client of mine - a local credit union looking for me to ensure their website was compliant based on their current web accessibility checker software.
"We've been hearing about other businesses getting sued," was the reasoning. The software had analyzed the website, but these reports might as well have been Greek to a person (like me!) who was unfamiliar with accessibility and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (also known as WCAG).
So many criteria!
But the question remained: what did this all mean?
As I began researching each item to be fixed, I didn't know that was the first step on my journey into web accessibility. When I started working at Palantir.net, I was assigned website audit tasks, all of which required extensive accessibility audits. Auditing these websites not only helped solidify the concepts and WCAG criteria in my brain, but it also gave me exposure to viewing websites through a different lens.
After a while, all I could see when I visited websites was accessibility issues - I would exclaim, "That contrast is not enough!" or "The tab order is all wrong!" - all of which drew chuckles from my spouse, who is also in web development.
Technological developments have played a tremendous role in bringing independence to more people than ever before. The combination of assistive technology, such as a screen reader, alongside websites, create opportunities unavailable to so many - until now.
Several months ago, I started to wonder if there was an official certification that I could acquire for accessibility. My research led me to the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP)'s Certified Professional in Web Accessibility certification. CPWA is a combination of Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC) and the Web Accessibility Specialist (WAS) certifications. CPACC is more generalized accessibility certification, while WAS is more web-specific.
So I decided to pursue CPWA certification and as a first step, I studied and passed CPACC last month.
I too two main approaches to my studies:
- Utilizing Deque University's full study material for both CPACC and WAS certifications. I purchased the material and used it extensively.
- If you are someone who learns better from listening/watching, this video covers a lot of the certification content.
Surprisingly (or, maybe it shouldn't have been a surprise), studying for the exam was an eye-opening experience. It taught me so much more about accessibility than I had ever considered before.
Why? Because Universal Design incorporates a two-level approach: first, a design based on user awareness that includes as many people as possible to determine the best implementable solution; second, a design that is customizable specifically and strategically to minimize the challenge of user adaptation.
This doesn't only apply to web applications, and there is so much more in the physical world around us to consider - something I am passionate about engaging with and exploring.
Universal Design is a phrase I picked up while studying, but it has become an approach and mindset that I apply every day with each of my clients. In all honesty, I can say that I can't get over how much I love what it offers, and the mindset and outcomes it provides.
From my experience, I strongly believe that when all of us begin to incorporate Universal Design into our vision and everyday way of thinking, we will get closer - and hopefully achieve - a world that is accessible for everyone, everywhere.