If you’re learning about digital accessibility, you may want to expand your knowledge — and demonstrate your experience — by earning a certification from a trusted authority.
In 2015, the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) introduced several certification programs. That included the Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC) credential, which has quickly become a foundational certification for those in the accessibility space.
Below, we’ll explain the basics of CPACC certification, along with info about other relevant accessibility credentials.
First, an important note: If you’re new to web accessibility, start your journey by reviewing the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a set of standards published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Our Compliance Roadmap includes free resources for learning about WCAG and testing your content for conformance.
An Overview of the CPACC Accessibility Certification Program
The world of accessibility is incredibly broad. It encompasses everything from transportation and architecture to the best practices of accessible web design, and to begin working within the space, professionals need to show a basic knowledge of the fundamentals.
The CPACC credential is intended to demonstrate “cross-disciplinary conceptual knowledge" about disabilities, accessibility, and accessibility-related standards and laws. It is not a technical credential — holding a CPACC credential shows that you understand the essentials of accessibility.
To obtain a CPACC, professionals must:
- Pass a computer-based examination with 100 multiple choice questions.
- Demonstrate one year of experience in accessibility, or describe their goals related to the CPACC credential.
- Renew the certification every three years by earning Continuing Accessibility Education Credits (CAECs) by participating in workshops, conferences, and other activities approved by the IAAP.
The cost of the CPACC examination is $385 for IAAP members and $485 for non-members. People from emerging and developing economies may be eligible for a discounted rate of $170.
Who should get a CPACC certification?
The IAAP describes the CPACC credential as ideal for people who want to “manage and support" accessibility. While the exam isn’t easy, it doesn’t require an in-depth knowledge of WCAG or other standards.
When making a business case for accessibility, a CPACC certification can be persuasive for managers and other stakeholders. However, if you want to develop skills to build accessible websites, mobile apps, and other digital products, you may want to consider pairing the CPACC with other certifications.
Other Digital Accessibility Certifications
Two other IAAP certification programs are directly applicable to digital accessibility. The first, Web Accessibility Specialist (WAS) is a technical credential that assesses knowledge of WCAG.
The WAS exam is intended primarily for developers and accessibility remediation specialists. It requires a knowledge of coding. Professionals who pass the CPACC and WAS exams hold an additional credential, Certified Professional of Web Accessibility (CPWA).
The second, Accessible Document Specialist (ADS), tests knowledge of the best practices for creating accessible PDFs, Microsoft Word documents, and other electronic documents. It references WCAG, which applies to web documents.
Both the WAS and the ADS examinations cost $430 for IAAP members and $530 for non-members.
Screen Reader Certifications
People who test web accessibility may earn certifications showing their knowledge of JAWS (Jobs Access With Speech) and NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access), which are the two most popular screen readers currently available.
These credentials are important because screen reader testing is widely used to ensure conformance with WCAG and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other non-discrimination laws. When testers are unfamiliar with screen readers, they may miss important accessibility barriers.
The Bureau of Internet Accessibility requires manual testers to hold both JAWS and NVDA certifications and have five or more years of experience in accessibility testing.
What to Know When Pursuing Accessibility Certifications
Within the accessibility space, real-world experience is the most important asset. You can contribute to accessibility without holding any credential from a third-party organization — and many developers, web designers, and other technical professionals take this approach.
However, certifications can be helpful, particularly if you need to show that you’re qualified to evaluate a website, fix barriers on a mobile app, or prepare an accessible document for wide release.
At the Bureau of Internet Accessibility, our senior developers, manual testers, and subject matter experts (SMEs) have years of hands-on experience within the digital accessibility space. Many members of our team also hold certifications from the IAAP and other third-party organizations.
By taking a team-based approach — and leveraging real-world experience with our powerful a11y automated analysis platform — we’re able to provide a comprehensive approach to testing and remediation. Talk to us to learn more or read about our four-point hybrid testing methodology.