Web Accessibility Specialist - certified!
Almost a year ago I set myself a challenge to attain certification as a Web Accessibility Specialist (WAS). This is a summary of how I prepared for the exam, and hopefully some motivation for others to learn more about web accessibility.
Preparing for the WAS examination wasn't something I wanted to hurry, but at the same time, I felt compelled to get this qualification behind me as soon as possible. I felt doing the exam the sooner would help strengthen my confidence and validation of my accessibility knowledge in my current work and beyond. From the beginning of my study, I worried if my approach was an effective way to learn given that the last time I took an exam was for my university degree, which was over ten years ago!
Knowing what to study was fairly straight forward thanks to the Book of Knowledge and other preparation resources that the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) link to.
Support from my employer
My employer, dxw, both paid for the exam and allowed me to spend one working day a week over approximately six months to study and prepare for it. In this time I studied and tested myself using the Deque WAS preparation course which can be purchased on a yearly basis for individuals or a team.
Good experience in using screen readers is a crucial part of accessibility testing and knowledge to ensure anyone can navigate a website using all types of assistive technology. I'd already some experience using VoiceOver for macOS and NVDA for Windows, but where I felt less confident, was in using touch device-based screen readers including VoiceOver for iOS and TalkBack on Android. Deque's shortcut and gesture guides provided all the information I needed to learn how they work.
Web Accessibility Guidelines
I also devoted a lot of time to reading How to Meet WCAG (Quick Reference). Understanding the difference between normative and non-normative is an important part of this learning process, which I struggled with at first, but after reading the different criteria this helped me to understand the differences.
When the day came last June to take the exam I felt slightly nervous whether I'd studied enough or perhaps taken too long studying to remember everything. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, I decided to take the option of doing the exam from home with a remote proctor. I was interrupted halfway through to show to the proctor any support aids I might be using. This knocked my confidence and focus a little, but I managed to resume the exam and regain focus after a couple of questions. I comfortably answered most of the seventy-five questions without much hesitation and finished nearly and hour ahead of the two-hour time limit.
A couple of months later I received an email to say I'd passed. I'm officially a Web Accessibility Specialist! Whilst I'm pleased and proud at having passed, I don't consider this a completion of my learning journey in accessibility, but just the beginning.