The Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies, or CPACC, is an accessibility certification bestowed by the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP). It covers conceptual knowledge of disabilities, universal design, accessibility laws, management strategies, and software development. This test deepened my understanding of accessibility and opened up my thinking about accessibility in both the digital and physical worlds.
The CPACC tests for understanding of various theories or models of disability. This includes medical, social, and economic perspectives. The social model of disability affected my thinking the most. It describes disabilities as a problem that society created by way of design. I no longer assume that everyone can interact with the world in the same way that I do. I am now aware of how design can be unintentionally discriminatory, fueling a passion for advocating for better user experiences.
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The principles of Universal Design (UD) is a topic that I don’t encounter in my day-to-day testing, but the concepts underscore the goals of accessibility testing. UD consists of 7 basic principles that strive to create more usable products and environments. Studying for the CPACC affected the way I look at components I am testing. For example, Perceptible Information – providing adequate color contrast on web content not only helps low vision users but helps all users understand the material. No one wants to lose a potential buyer because they could not read the information!
Coming from a legal background, specific accessibility laws were the easiest to pick up. However, the full scope of the territory was a challenge. In addition to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the CPACC covers laws throughout the globe. Although I no longer practice, seeing the common thread of laws and their bases helped gain an understanding of how the rest of the world in serving their community of people with disabilities. It also highlighted the ambiguity of including the web in accessibility laws. I now feel empowered to voice these issues with my elected officials and advocate for inclusion. Note – the new Accessible Canada Act was not covered in the March/April 2020 test, but maybe tested on future exams.
A big surprise to me was the number of questions about organizational governance and the software development process. I purchased the Deque class for CPACC certification, and these topics were covered last. Naturally, I gave it the least amount of time and attention. There were more questions than I expected based on the amount of study material. IAAP provides supplemental material, which may provide more insight into these areas.
Finally, unlike many other certifications, there are not many practices or example questions available. The Deque course has multiple choice questions at the end of each section, but they are not representative of the items on the exam. For those who do not do well, like me, on multiple-choice tests, this can be a challenge. Knowing the material inside and out and reading the supplemental material was essential to scoring well on the exam.
The bottom line, understanding accessibility is more than just adding some extra HTML to code. Knowing to add some sort of aria role is different than understanding why that aria role is essential. Being CPACC certified (like me!) ensures a base level of knowledge not just on the how of accessibility, but also a deeper understanding of the impact of availability. This is important for taking accessibility from a “legal said we have to” perspective to a “let’s create a good experience for everyone” perspective.