Access iQ spoke with Department for Education and Child Development’s Senior Content Coordinator, Online Communications, Cliff Edwards, about championing accessibility within organisations.
Why did you undertake professional development?
In short, it was really a chance to undertake a recognised course and an opportunity to validate my skills in the area to make sure I was on the right track.
What attracted you about the Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility?
Up to that point the best online course I have undertaken was OCAD’s [Ontario College of Art and Design University] free intro course— the Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility was obviously a step up from that. The main attraction for me was the opportunity to get a full checklist assessment validated independently by industry experts.
Going into the Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility what learning outcomes were you hoping for?
I wanted to gain more user focus. I didn’t want a course that was just a study of the guidelines—in that respect the course met my expectations. I was also interested in the fact that there were also a couple of different skill elements required for each assignment meaning folk could gravitate to an area of their choice.
What were the main things that you learnt from the course?
I really enjoyed the elements that focused on the user perspective, testing new screen readers, captioning the video, etc. It would be great to see future versions of the course accompany these lessons with videos from real users explaining the issues faced (consistent with the guidelines). For example, videos that demonstrate the navigational issues when opening document links in a new window in a screen reader and how that particular issue relates to WCAG tech G200 [link is external]. I think the fact that students can experience the issue both personally and from the perspective of a screen reader user would be a powerful message.
How have you applied what you learned in the course?
By expanding my user knowledge around accessibility issues I’ve been able to provide more user focus when completing an assessment or providing someone support/advice.
How important is accessibility knowledge as a skillset, and for your career?
As a skillset, having accessibility knowledge has been great as I now always base any decisions/advice and support on recognised best practice and if I don’t know the answer— or it’s not immediately evident— I always make a point of researching and/or seeking support from industry experts. I’m now always 100 per cent confident in my work (I’m also careful to never exceed my knowledge).
Fundamentally, understanding WCAG 2.0 should always be the first step in learning about web accessibility as this is what government is formally committed too. Once people understand the real issues facing users and the actual discrimination behind it, they are normally happy to jump on board.
Having completed the Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility I’m now providing a lot of free advice/reviews/assessments and full checklist assessments in my spare time as I believe it’s a worthwhile pursuit and one that challenges the status quo. Rather than be a burden it’s actually helped develop support for WCAG, connect me to people I wouldn’t have otherwise connected with and led to opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise.