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Re: Seeking feedback on IAAP certification roadmap

From: Charles McCathie Nevile <chaals@yandex-team.ru>
Date: Wed, 09 Apr 2014 18:19:50 +0200
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org, "Paul Bohman" <paul.bohman@deque.com>
Message-ID: <op.xd14zcr1y3oazb@chaals.local>
Hello Paul, all...

On Tue, 08 Apr 2014 19:15:30 +0200, Paul Bohman <paul.bohman@deque.com>  

> Cross posted request for feedback:
> The International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) needs
> your feedback on our roadmap for accessibility certification. Here is the
> roadmap as it stands now:
> http://www.accessibilityassociation.org/content.asp?contentid=163

> Here are some questions to consider as you read the roadmap:
>    1. What do you think of the roadmap overall?

I think it is trying to tackle an extremely ambitious task.

Focusing the requirement on being a member of IAAP seems a bad decision,  
and the model for extending certification seems a terrible one.

I expect a professional to have dedicated a minimum of 2-3 years to  
learning their skills (perhaps over the course of 4-5 years of working in  
the area if they haven't done any related study, or a couple if they  
have). But the roadmap seems predicated on the idea of a test more like  
evaluating a few web pages for accessibility - a bit of automated testing,  
maybe a little bit of manual work, and presto! The mismatch in  
expectations concerns me.

>    2. What would you do to improve our roadmap?

I would prefer to see the roadmap start with developing a set of tasks  
that are necessary to be able to complete successfully, development of  
curricula to support those tasks in collaboration with other organisations  
teaching accessibility, and a framework for administering testing. As  
Gregg suggested, the testing function should essentially be at arm's  
length from the people who define the requirements and provide the  
training, and in principle should be distributable.

The roadmap should explain the process by which tasks will be updated in  
light of technological changes.

>    3. What do you think of the *levels* of certification outlined in the
>    roadmap?

I don't think it is worthwhile, at this stage, contemplating the "Expert"  
level. Assuming that the modules for the professional level are extensions  
of knowledge required for the basic level, I would award them individually  
as extensions to the basic level, only award a "professional level  
certification" to someone who has demonstrated their capability in a full  
set of modules.

And spending time on what letters people can put after their name is a  
terrible waste of effort. Don't do it, until you have achieved sufficient  
market recognition of your certification that the most common abbreviation  
emerges already as obvious.

>    4. Are there any broad *Knowledge Domains and Roles* that we have left
>    off that should be included?

All except one of the "professional" level certifications is simply a  
title, which makes it left out in practice.

That said, Legal, Regulatory and "soft law" instruments to manage  
accessibility form a discipline which is missing. Frankly, I would suggest  
you be very wary of taking it on, too. It's a very challenging area, and  
there are already organisations who specialise in obvious component areas  
such as Legal process, International Relations, Behavioural Economics. The  
use of technical work in policy development is a special area of pain,  
where I don't believe there is a sufficiently strong body of theory and  
practice to justify a certification plan today, although it would be a  
valuable area for research.

I'd suggest focusing on digital accessibility exclusively at this stage.  
There are existing professional associations and certifications in areas  
like Architecture and the Built Environment, Hospitality and Customer  
Service, and I think it would make more sense to work within such  
organisations (or at least in very close collaboration) rather than trying  
to develop a certification scheme outside their existing frameworks.

>    5. Do you like our list of *Digital Accessibility* areas of
>    certification?

Not much.

The distinction between Web Accessibility and Software Accessibility makes  
some sense. However, I think the baseline distinction should be between  
*content*, and interfaces and interactions. You may then want to divide  
your certification according to platforms through which these are  
delivered, and perhaps to subdivide the themes (e.g. textual/hypertextual  
content compared to audio/visual content), but given the diversity in  
needs of people with disabilities, I think there is little benefit in only  
being able to claim professional competence in meeting the needs of a  
narrow set of users.

The explanation of "Law, Policy and Regulation" doesn't seem to touch on  
knowledge of actual law, policy or regulation and how to understand and  
work with them. This should be significantly reworked if you are going to  
deal with it - but the caution I wrote above is applicable here, if at a  
somewhat simpler level.

>    Should we add to or subtract from this list? (For    example, one  
> person commented that we should add gaming to the list.)
>    6. Do you like the idea of certifying for these areas separately, in a
>    modular approach as we have done? (See the section on *Referencing  
>    IAAP Credentials* for an explanation of how this might work)

Yes and No. I like the idea that a set of competencies can be certified  
one by one. But I think you have far too many options to begin. As noted  
above, I think you should provide certification of capabilities beyond the  
basic level, but require a full set of capabilities to certify a  
professional. You may choose to divide this by platform (Web, MacOS,  
Android, Windows…) for practical reasons, but I would resist further  
lowering the bar.

 From my perspective of working out how to make services accessible,  
someone who can tell me about HTML content accessibility but not audio,  
video, user interaction design, nor what to do with document formats such  
as PDF, Word, Google Docs and eBooks is not a valuable professional.

>    7. Do you like the 3 year period for certification? Would you make it
>    shorter (2 years) or longer (5 years)?

I would be inclined to make it last at least 5 years. But unless renewal  
is based on some process of testing at least the skills that have changed  
in that time (with the underlying assumption that the testing effectively  
requires having maintained the original skill-set), the certification is  
of linearly diminishing worth compared to a decent CV and references.

>    8. What kind of certification assessment would you create?

I wouldn't. It's a reason why I'm not part of this project. But I realise  
that isn't a helpful answer, so…

>    Keep in mind that it has to be a valid and meaningful test of the
>    right kind of competencies, it must be challenging enough that
>    novices could not pass it without first studying or gaining
>    experience, it must be scalable (not too burdensome to administer
>    or grade/score the assessment), and translatable into other
>    languages.

*You* need to keep all the above in mind (I love it when the hard things  
are Someone Else's Problem :) ). It also needs to be robust in identifying  
the person (or organisation) certified.

My approach for the professional level certification would be to rely on  
the explanations given for real work done on a variety of concrete tasks,  
ideally in the context of actually solving problems for customers.

The alternative relies on developing a very large set of possible tasks,  
which is not so hard for the Web (there's a lot of stuff that could easily  
be improved) and a framework for generating and distributing the right  
answers, or a methodology for determining the success.

>    9. Once certification becomes available, do you think you would go
>    through the process to become certified? Why or why not?

No. My job is "permanent" and not based on certifications of competence,  
so it would be unnecessary to me. If I were to become a freelance  
accessibility consultant, and if this certification were strongly  
established in the market as a recommendation of higher value than my  
reputation, then I would probably do so.

>    10. What else should we consider as we move forward?

To support the IAAP as a global certification and education body, in  
competition with non-profit groups and government-funded institutions such  
as universities, is a very ambitious challenge.

Good luck.



Charles McCathie Nevile - Consultant (web standards) CTO Office, Yandex
       chaals@yandex-team.ru         Find more at http://yandex.com
Received on Wednesday, 9 April 2014 16:20:31 UTC

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