Media Access Australia (MAA) spoke to a Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility (PCWA) alumnus working as a Web Content Administrator in the local government sector about gaining stronger WCAG 2.0 knowledge, accessibility techniques and how to apply them, and how to conduct a web audit.
Why did you undertake professional development?
I have been interested in web accessibility since first hearing about the National Transition Strategy a few years ago. I was concerned that the deadline for WCAG 2.0 AA compliance was approaching, and nobody in my organisation had any skills or knowledge in this area.
How does web accessibility apply to your role?
My role is web content administrator, so I edit and publish website pages. It is my responsibility to ensure that all content published on the website meets accessibility standards. I am also a member of the online group and will be the accessibility advocate.
What attracted you about the PCWA and led to you enrolling in the course? How did it compare to other courses?
The fact that it was online was a big push for me, as I knew that with my work and family responsibilities at that time I wouldn't be able to attend a course in person. In comparison to other courses it was good. I had previously completed Vision Australia training (one day courses) in web accessibility and creating accessible Word and PDF documents, but those courses were not as in-depth as the PCWA.
Going into the PCWA what learning outcomes were you hoping for?
I mainly wanted to gain more knowledge of WCAG 2.0, and the confidence to be able to pass on that knowledge to others in my organisation, as well as external vendors where necessary.
What did you think were the main things that you learnt from the course?
The group practical assignment where an audit of a website was undertaken, and then suggested fixes implemented was really useful. I learnt the background of WCAG, accessibility techniques and how to apply them, how to conduct an audit.
How have you applied what you learned in the course?
This is where I would love to have been able to have said, "I applied everything I learnt in the course to my organisation's website and now it meets WCAG 2.0 AA standards." However, it's not quite that simple!
I had a major health issue in 2014 and was off work completely for 4 months, and although I returned in late 2014 it has only been part-time, so accessibility has been put on the back-burner.
In saying that, Web Accessibility is a major project for our organisation this year. Funds have been allocated in the budget to train staff in creating accessible documents—a lot of the problem with our site is that there are hundreds of documents linked to the site that are not accessible.
I have also worked with our website vendors (hosts) to develop a presentation on accessibility that will be used to train our CMS editors in how to make their web pages more accessible. As soon as I am back working full time next month I will be able to train our 50+ CMS editors.
With the design of the site, I knew what needed to be applied to make it accessible, but it is hosted externally, and we have no control over the code. So a decision has been made to wait till the new design is implemented for the actual site structure to be WCAG 2.0 AA compliant.
The course has an online collaboration element, how useful was the opportunity to collaborate with other accessibility champions?
Very useful. I would not have had the web development skills required to make some of the changes in the practical assignment. In general terms it was good to be able to interact with other people in organisations to see what they are doing, discuss their experiences etc.
How would your colleagues at your organisation benefit from also taking the PCWA course?
I don't know that it would benefit anyone else, as currently I am the only employee directly employed to administer the website. Although we have 50 content editors, I think a lot of what was in the PCWA course would not be relevant to their jobs (although parts of it would).
How important is accessibility knowledge as a skillset, and for your career?
I would say that as an administrator of a (local) government website it is essential to my skillset. In terms of my career, it may not be essential for future positions, but still very useful. I have noticed that knowledge of accessibility is a requirement of lots of positions I have seen advertised.
If you were to give a recommendation of the course to a future student, what would that recommendation be?
Go for it! Don't be afraid that you may not have adequate technical skills to complete the course as it is very well structured and there is plenty of support (from both tutors and fellow students). It gave me the confidence to be able to assist in a major project for our organisation, confidence to be able to develop training material and be able to pass on accessibility knowledge to others in my organisation.