The Proven Path To Digital Accessibility Compliance Part 3: Bridging The Skills Gap 

Companies who do not invest in people lose. 

They lose across organizational retention, productivity, and revenue… 

They lose across employee engagement, innovation, and ownership. 

Success is driven by people and smart businesses invest in success drivers. 

In short, how does our team do this thing better? Innovation. Adaptation. Change. 

The solution is often overcoming skill gaps. 

But it’s hard. Why? Because sometimes you need more than theoretical frameworks and a strong conceptual understanding to bridge skill gaps, especially in technical domains like digital accessibility. 

To make things further complex, the digital accessibility field has significant technical ambiguity, evolving guidelines, and business impacts across brand, revenue, and legal. All of which have historically driven the marketplace’s current digital accessibility skills gap. 

This article is Part 3 in a series. “The Proven Path To Digital Accessibility Compliance Part 1” explores how we got here – money, opportunity, and the law. 

“The Proven Path To Digital Accessibility Compliance Part 2: Accessibility Overlays” explores “quick fix” digital accessibility solutions. 

In part 3, we will discuss how to bridge the digital accessibility skills gap and explore the different types of training and certification programs available for digital accessibility. 

The Best Corporate Training and Certification Programs 

Growth, happiness, communications, project management, and leadership corporate trainings are table stakes within your overall talent strategy. 

The corporate training and certification programs with the best outcomes typically are tied to the personal goals of participants, their interests, or a greater sense of meaning in their work. 

Helping people with disabilities live, learn, shop, travel, and work usually checks people’s personal boxes for creating a greater purpose, fulfillment, or sense of meaning in their work.  

It is not uncommon for companies to have multiple individuals across their design and development teams become very passionate about digital accessibility and ensuring people with disabilities can access their digital products and services. 

The problems with many digital accessibility corporate training and certification programs lie in the outcomes. 

Problems With Most Digital Accessibility Training & Certification Programs 

Knowledge-based digital accessibility trainings and certifications can be provided at scale. 

However, it is difficult to develop functional technical knowledge, skills, and abilities with text-based and pre-recorded curriculum. People learn differently, need things explained differently, need questions answered, need hands-on exercises, and need functional skill assessments with feedback. 

The digital accessibility skills gap in the marketplace today is not due to a lack of information. Accessibility standards and guidelines are free and publicly available. The digital accessibility skills gap exists because the digital accessibility compliance standards and guidelines are ambiguous, subjective, and painfully dry. 

In May of 2023, Teach Access published the data from their Fall 2022 Accessibility Skills Gap Survey. In summary, the results are not good. 

  • 2 out of 3 respondents reported their products are less accessible than they want and have to invest in on-the-job digital accessibility training for employees. 
  • 2% of respondents reported that it’s easy for their organization to find candidates with accessibility skills. 
  • “We find that there is a significant disconnect between understanding accessibility standards and creation of content that actually adheres to them.” 

Want to know why the digital accessibility skill gap is so bad? Learn that and why WCAG is so ambiguous, subjective, and depressingly dry at the same time right here

Aligning Your Business Needs With The Right Training & Certification Program 

Imagine hackers attacked your business, realizing cybersecurity is a skills gap for your team, and cybersecurity trainings and certifications are now a top priority. 

In this scenario, where your goal is to develop the technical knowledge, skills, and abilities in your team to protect your business against cyber attacks, including identifying vulnerabilities and detecting security breaches, would you choose a knowledge-based training and certification program that includes: 

  1. A text-based curriculum and study guide 
  1. Technical cybersecurity certification earned upon passing a multiple-choice exam. 
  1. No live instruction, trainer feedback, hands-on exercises, or practicum 

How protected from cybersecurity threats and hackers would you feel with training consisting of an e-book and pre-recorded lectures? 

Prior to 2022, this knowledge-based approach has been the adopted industry standard for bridging the skills gap in the digital accessibility field. 

With a knowledge-based approach to a highly technical field with evolving guidelines, ambiguity, and subjectivity, it is no wonder Teach Access found 2% of businesses find it easy to source candidates with accessibility skills in their 2022 survey. 

The Different Types Of Digital Accessibility Training and Certification 

The two types of training and certification programs in the digital accessibility field are knowledge-based and skill-based. Each type has synchronous instructor-led, blended learning, and asynchronous self-paced formats. Here are three examples. 

  1. The DHS Trusted Tester training and certification program is a skill-based, asynchronous, self-paced digital accessibility training and certification. 
  1. The Certified AccessAbility Tester is a skill based digital accessibility training and certification program with instructor-led and self-paced tracks. 
  1. The Web Accessibility Specialist credential is a knowledge-based, self-paced digital accessibility certification. 

Knowledge-Based Digital Accessibility Training & Certification Overview 

Knowledge-Based Digital Accessibility trainings and certifications Develop a deep understanding of the ‘why’ behind accessibility practices. They focus on understanding the laws, principles, and general best-practices in the digital accessibility field. 

Knowledge-based digital accessibility trainings and certifications are usually best for decision-makers, consultants, and managers who oversee accessibility, are responsible for legal compliance, or need to be  well-versed in standards and regulations. 

Assessing comprehension and earning certification is done by passing multiple-choice tests or written exams on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), laws and legal compliance under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the diverse needs of users with disabilities. 

Skill-Based Digital Accessibility Training & Certification Overview 

Skill-based digital accessibility trainings and certifications develop practical skills to create, test, report on, and remediate digital assets, including websites, mobile apps, and software. 

These skill-based trainings and certifications are best for overcoming the digital accessibility skills gap across web developers, designers, and content creators responsible for ensuring digital accessibility compliance is achieved and maintained. 

Digital accessibility concepts, laws, and best-practices are covered, but skill-based digital accessibility trainings emphasize hands-on activities, requires the use of screen readers, and conducting accessibility testing, reporting, and remediation audits. Certifications are earned by demonstrating functional technical skills, such as creating digitally accessible content or evaluating a website for WCAG compliance. 

5 Takeaways For Choosing A Digital Accessibility Training & Certification Program 

  1. Knowledge-based trainings help you understand the legal requirements and best-practices of digital accessibility compliance. 
  1. Skill-based training develops the functional knowledge, skills, and abilities for you to achieve and maintain accessibility compliance. 
  1. Department heads and leadership will benefit more from knowledge-based trainings on digital accessibility laws and best-practices. 
  1. Skill-based training is critical for web developers, designers, testers, and content creators responsible for achieving and maintaining accessibility compliance. 
  1. Understanding the “why” behind accessibility is as important as knowing “how” to achieve and maintain it. 

What About You? 

What type of digital accessibility training and certification have you completed? 

Will you be procuring knowledge-based or skills-based digital accessibility training in the future? 

Let us know in the comments. 

And if you found this article helpful, please share it! 

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