New Group Forms to Support Accessible-Tech Community
The International Association of Accessibility Professionals wants to create a community of learning for the accessible-technology industry. The goal: to help organizations make their online content more readily available to people with disabilities.
Accessibility professionals—at least in the technology space—haven’t had a professional association to call their own, where they could go to network and learn more about the industry that makes content accessible to people with disabilities. Until now.
At the annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference last week at California State University, Northridge, a group of organizations announced the launch of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals. With the support of 29 founding members, including tech companies, global banks, and nonprofits, IAAP will focus on developing education for new and veteran accessibility professionals and advancing the work of the profession globally, the group said in a statement.
“We found the need to really connect this community of people who already exist and to leverage the incredible knowledge that they have,” IAAP CEO David Dikter said. “It’s a profession that has a lot of people who are often self-taught, and there’s a serious need for professional development, and for building the capacity to start helping organizations—including other associations—to get to an accessible environment.”
The new group plans to offer certifications to standardize and more clearly define what skills an accessible-technology professional needs.
“It’s often unclear whether somebody says they understand accessibility and if they actually have the skills to perform it,” he said. “We also want to lay out the groundwork for organizational development. For groups of every size, shape, and color, how do they strategize at implementing accessibility within their organization?”
IAAP will also work with technology companies, including association management system providers, to help them make their products accessible.
“We have hundreds of association management systems, and very few, if any, are accessible. A lot of associations don’t know that their products are inaccessible—they don’t even know to ask the question,” Dikter said. “We’re discovering along the way that when we start telling folks about the accessibility work, it’s being applauded.”
Many organizations avoid the issue because making content accessible to people with disabilities can be a daunting, expensive task.
“A lot of folks just don’t know what it is they need to do to fix it. Some of it’s easy, but some of it really requires the technology companies, the people who developed their platform, to go into their product and learn and understand what they need to do to access it,” he said. “It’s a big undertaking and a big commitment to redo their product.”
But the result is worth it, Dikter said: “There’s no reason, today, why anybody should be excluded from any of the great content that exists on the web and elsewhere.”