Media Access Australia (MAA) spoke to Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility (PCWA) alumnus Erin Prichard of the Blind Foundation on the value of peer-to-peer learning, and investing in professional development to learn the latest techniques in digital accessibility.
MAA: Why did you undertake professional development?
Erin Prichard: I'd been working as a web accessibility consultant for a year prior to taking the course. I had completed web development training many years earlier, and for several years had worked in an accessibility role. I was able to combine my knowledge of the two and learn the rest as I needed it. But I wanted something more credible to back me up. I also wanted to see if there was a more structured approach to testing. As it turned out there was a much better way of assessing websites. The course gave me many tools and insights.
How does web accessibility come into your role?
I am a Digital Accessibility Consultant. On a daily basis I am consulting with businesses and organisations on all aspects of accessibility, but primarily it's their websites I am looking at.
What attracted you about the PCWA and led to you enrolling in the course? How did it compare to other courses?
- I liked that it allowed me to work completely remotely. And the time commitment was not excessive. I was easily able to complete the course around full-time work.
- I liked that it put me in touch with others in the same or similar field from all over the world. Hearing their experiences and learning from them was invaluable.
- It was designed and taught by industry experts.
- Being university-accredited was a big advantage.
Going into the PCWA what learning outcomes were you hoping for?
I wanted to come away from the course with a confidence in what I was doing. I wanted to it to support me further and reinforce what I already knew in the area of web accessibility.
What did you think were the main things that you learnt from the course?
The WCAG–EM (Evaluation Methodology) has really helped me apply structure to what I do. And to ensure I am evaluating every website in the same way against the WCAG 2.0.
How have you applied what you learned in the course?
Seeing how some of my peers were presenting their reports—I've taken some ideas from that. It also enabled me to speak more informatively to my clients about the process and what they should expect to see as an outcome from my reviews.
The course has an online collaboration element, how useful was the opportunity to collaborate with other accessibility champions?
Invaluable. There is no greater resource than the knowledge of your peers.
How would your colleagues at your organisation benefit from also taking the PCWA course?
Definitely through the networking opportunities that come through the group task. And working with others and seeing their approach. It challenges you to think about your processes.
How important is accessibility knowledge as a skillset, and for your career?
Is it not the very purpose of a website—to ensure all visitors to that site can easily access the services and information? Accessibility is just another link in that chain. Sadly, it is often thought of as an additional requirement. I wouldn’t be on the career path I am without the accessibility knowledge I've acquired. Start paying attention. With more users speaking out about accessibility nowadays, it is only going to become more important. In recent times, there have been some successful court cases bought against companies whose websites prevented a user from accessing their services. We've also seen more Governments shift towards ensuring their department's websites meet WCAG 2.0 requirements.
If you were to give a recommendation of the course to a future student, what would that recommendation be?
Use the time to ask as many questions as possible. Someone will have the answers!
Share your passion and what you've learnt with others. Accessibility is better for it.
Want to learn more about WCAG 2.0 and web accessibility?
The Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility, a university-accredited online qualification jointly conducted by W3C member Media Access Australia and the University of South Australia, is a fully assessed six-week program that covers both accessibility principles and techniques. The course provides students with all the essentials needed to achieve compliance with international best practice in accessibility. Accessible documents, among many other aspects of WCAG are covered in Access iQ’s complete guides to web accessibility for content authors, web developers and web designers.