Digital transformation got it’s boost because of the pandemics, companies and workforce was sometimes even forced to switch all of their work to online only. For the most that made it it seems like some form of remote work will not go away even after the pandemics. Some have even decided to move their organizations to remote-first ways.
This and also the upcoming European Accessibility Act (EAA) that will have to be incorporated into member countries by the June of 2022 will for sure trigger the need of more accessibility specialists. Online banking and e-commerce are for sure quite critical in an online society. E-commerce for sure increased a lot due to pandemics and potentially also converted some merchants to online-first way sooner that they have planned before.
Quick digital transformation introduced more digital barriers to end-users
I suspect that companies that felt the emergency to proceed with their digital transformation introduced a lot of digital barriers with it.
Designers, developers and content providers were for sure under even more pressure than they usually are and I can almost guarantee that accessibility was often pushed aside or even to the bottom of back-logs.
If somebody even thought of it at all.
When EAA will get more attention and reach the stakeholders and others, I hope they will finally detect the need to fix the barriers.
Maybe they will finally get it that it is the right thing to do. For those that need financial reasons, I hope they will get the potentials of it and for those that only do it to not get bad publicity and fines I hope that EAA will have enough weight.
When accessibility is an after-thought we fail at it. Because there is often the time to market that wins over making it right.
June 2022 will hopefully start to build on awareness
I hope that EAA will get enough attention in the media and between stakeholders, service providers, agencies and universities as well.
While Web Accessibility Directive (WAD) needs accessibility specialist to care for quite limited public sector websites and mobile apps, the European Accessibility Act spans over to much larger private sector companies that provide online banking and e-commerce to start with.
I think that this will create a need for more accessibility specialists and create a big gap on the market. Sure, all companies will need to build their internal accessibility knowledge and internal specialists, but we know that it takes quite a bit of time to make it from theory to best practice, so external, veteran, specialists will have a lot of work.
I think specialists will have to provide audits with remediation examples and knowledge building workshops at the minimum.
Agile product development practices will also need special attention, so that sprints and continuous deployment will deliver accessible products and prevent regressions. Shift-left practices will need DevOps, developers, designers and content providers to also focus on accessibility.
Document accessibility will for sure need much more focus and we must not forget about video accessibility as well.
Making accessible videos requires good foundations and involvement of multiple roles, so this will for sure also need a lot of focus and expert support.
So through needed awareness markets should accept the fact that accessibility needs their attention for any of reasons – ethical, economic or legal.
Accessibility certifications can give us an indication of current awareness
I am personally certified by International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) as a Web Accessibility Specialist (WAS). I decided to pursuit this certification to confirm my knowledge but even more to be a part of official organization that connects the accessibility professionals and build the knowledge and awareness.
WAS certification for me is also an constant reminder that there is still a lot to learn and that accessibility is also ever evolving.
Therefore I wondered how many people in Europe, per country, are certified. I tried to find out about it online but IAAP does not publish the country on their certified professionals directory (opens in new window), so I wrote to them and received a table with number of certified professionals per country.
- ADS = Accessible Document Specialist
- CPACC = Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies
- WAS = Web Accessibility Specialist
- CPWA = Certified Professional in Web Accessibility. People with this credential have their CPACC and WAS certificates.
Table represents data as of 10th of February 2022 and numbers change often, but it does capture the situation after WAD and before EAA, so it’s quite interesting to give them some context. It will be even more interesting to get new numbers after EAA.
There are only 9 people in whole Europe that are certified in document accessibility (ADS). With abundance of all Portable Document Format (PDF) files out there on the web it means that this is the most wanted profile in my opinion. Document accessibility goes beyond PDFs, and it looks like we have a long way to go here.
CPWA combines people that are both CPACC and WAS certified and altogether there are 59 people that have it.
CPACC is much more popular than WAS and it may make total sense as WAS is very technical and CPACC is not.
United Kingdom (130) and Sweden (89) have most people with certification, followed by Finland (27), Germany (25), Norway (23), followed by The Netherlands (14), Spain (11) and Ireland (8).
These numbers in my opinion tell a story of a gap in most of Europe but also a trend among some countries that lead with awareness and competence on accessibility. Some numbers must also be taken with some additional consideration as people migrate or belong to multiple countries at the same time.
I am not stating that only people with certification can contribute to accessibility. But it is for sure important to verify and standardize professions and IAAP’s certifications mean exactly that.
The fact remains that we need more accessibility specialists and I personally think that getting certified (and remaining certified) by an international organization makes sense.
European Accessibility Act should get as much attention as possible in the media and in the stakeholder circles and everybody involved into digital production should get better at accessibility and maybe even certified. The market demands will soon rise and making inclusive and accessible products will bring a lot of positive impacts on the whole society. And that is also the plan behind WAD and EAA. If I can guess – after EAA we will get even more coverage by legislation and I think that is a good thing. Be prepared yesterday for an accessible today and tomorrow.