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Re: Seeking feedback on IAAP certification roadmap

From: Paul Bohman <paul.bohman@deque.com>
Date: Wed, 9 Apr 2014 12:28:16 -0400
Message-ID: <CA+20umHm8TkSuDnZMv70XG8iRiLRco91Z+fZUZjprutbaErLBA@mail.gmail.com>
To: Sharron Rush <srush@knowbility.org>
Cc: W3C WAI ig <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Great comments, Sharron.

We probably need to add more context to the explanations on the web site. I
wrote the certification piece but not the other parts of the web site, so
we'll need to coordinate to make our purposes clearer.

As for education vs certification and which one will provide the most
benefit, I have a few thoughts. First, I have worked on the education side
for about 14 years, starting at WebAIM, then at George Mason University,
and now at Deque (I'm the Director of Training, so education is still what
I do). So of course I believe in education, or I wouldn't be doing it. I
also studied accessibility curriculum efforts in my dissertation, looking
at efforts at Middlesex University in the UK, the University of Linz in
Austria, and George Mason University in the US. Between those three
universities, there were 5 separate accessibility curriculum initiatives.
Some were specialist programs just in accessibility, and some were
accessibility classes integrated into other curricula.

And guess what? 4 out of the 5 curriculum initiatives failed. They no
longer exist. The only one still standing is the Web Sciences curriculum at
the University of Linz. There are many reasons for those failures which I
analyze in my dissertation, but one of the reasons is the lack of a clear
career path, which leads to a decrease in market demand, and a reluctance
of both employers and job seekers to invest in an area that is seen as an
"extra duty as assigned" instead of a real career. So one of the most
compelling reasons to start a certification program is to legitimize the
profession in the eyes of employers and job seekers. Of course,
certification alone cannot do this. Education and awareness are just as
important, but certification provides a measuring stick, while education
provides the awareness. And political advocacy plays a role. And legal
compliance and regulation... In other words, I fully recognize that
certification is not a magic solution to everything. But I do see it as an
important component.

Also, the very act of creating a certification helps us fine tune a list of
competencies that accessibility professionals should know. This will inform
education efforts, which will come back around and inform the next
iteration of certification, and so on. I see education and certification as
a symbiotic relationship, mutually beneficial to both.

So my take is: Yes, of course let's educate. And advocate. And politicize.
And certify. All of the above.

Paul Bohman, PhD
Director of Training
Deque Systems, Inc
703-225-0380, ext.121

On Wed, Apr 9, 2014 at 11:51 AM, Sharron Rush <srush@knowbility.org> wrote:

>  Hi Paul,
> These are important questions, I am glad that the IAAP is asking them.  I
> would add this one: What exactly is the problem meant to be solved by the
> certification process?  I have heard several but none seems aligned with
> the Roadmap that you present here.  So I guess the follow on question would
> be: How does the certification process solve that problem?
> I looked on the "About IAAP" page for an answer to my question of "What is
> the problem we are addressing with certification and how is it solved?" The
> closest I can find is under "Individual Professional Development" which
> says:
> "Develop and implement activities, including a certification program, to
> enable professionals working in accessibility and those interested in
> knowing more about accessibility to influence and implement accessibility
> within any organization." Not sure what that means - can you explain? is it
> focused on web accessibility? physical accessibility? both? and for whom
> exactly?
> It is lovely to see people working together for a common goal of improving
> awareness and skills around digital accessibility (and I will assume for
> the sake of discussion that is what is meant).  I strongly agree with the
> fact that inclusive design thinking is needed and is needed throughout an
> organization, not simply among tech people.  But if that is the problem,
> isn't Lars' solution by far the better one? Should our efforts not be put
> to integrating accessibility awareness and skills training into existing
> educational programs for project management, programming, design,
> engineering, communications, etc?  It seems that the last thing we want is
> for accessibility to be once more shoehorned into a "special" category,
> like "special" education that seems to be aimed at a particular (and
> somehow different) group of people.  Do we not, rather want to see broad
> thinking about human interaction integrated seamlessly into the way people
> are trained for digital communications professions?
> I don't think, as others seem to, there is anything to fear from a
> certification program.  It is unlikely that employers or others will choose
> certification over years of proven experience.  Most are quite familiar
> with the empty promise of some skills certification programs, I am thinking
> now of usability certifications, a closely related field. But I also see so
> little to gain and find myself wishing that this much energy and effort
> were being expended on an initiative that could really make a difference. I
> am simply not convinced that this is it.
> I don't mean to be a wet blanket and I thought a while about just letting
> this go its course and remaining silent.  But as I said, it is exciting to
> see people begin to take action and I appreciate the way you address the
> concerns that have been raised, Paul.  So I share my perspective in the
> hope of being helpful in focusing the efforts of IAAP on a course of action
> that might produce more useful outcomes than building yet another
> certification.
> Sincerely,
> Sharron
> ------------------------------
> Sharron Rush | Executive Director | Knowbility.org
> *Equal access to technology for people with disabilities *
> *Learn web accessibility from nose to tail at
> <http://www.knowbility.org/v/john-slatin-accessu/>AccessU
> <http://www.knowbility.org/v/john-slatin-accessu/>*
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Received on Wednesday, 9 April 2014 16:29:05 UTC

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