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Key Takeaways from CPACC Accessibility Certification

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.

Universal Design

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.

Thoughts on “Key Takeaways from CPACC Accessibility Certification”

  1. I was impressed in the way that you advocate for those with disabilities. This blog inspires me to want to learn more and expand my knowledge of accessibility. Would you recommend I study for and take this exam and if so what prep materials did you find most helpful? I think the disabled, disadvantaged, and otherwise handicapped community have a great advocate in Rose Peruski.

  2. Rose Peruski Post author

    @Joe – I think if you feel inspired to learn more about accessibility, that is great! There is a class through Deque on CPACC as well as a Body of Knowledge document provided by the IAAP that links out to a lot of great articles.Thank you for your kind words!

  3. Ashley Jakubison

    Thank you for the insight into your experience with this certification process and for mentioning the added resources we could explore if hoping to follow this path. Would you say the prep-class you took was well worth it? Like you, I am a “poor test taker” so any and all advice is appreciated!
    From your article, I especially love your last line. Also coming from the testing side of things, it is too easy to view accessibility from the “legal said so” side, as it always means more work from testing, creative and dev teams. Do you see a future where accessibility is viewed in this “good experience for everyone” frame of mind?

  4. Thanks a lot for this round up, there isn’t much info at all on the CPACC so this is really useful! I’ve been through the BOK and I’m working through the Deque course, but I’m struggling with just how far I need to go and wondering how much of it I need to commit to memory? Is it a case of memorising stats, facts and figures? It’s been a while since I’ve taken an exam and I’ll admit I’m quite worried about this one because there’s so little information on it!

  5. Rose Peruski Post author

    I hear you, Jade! I was really worried about that as well. I think for stats, knowing some general figures for percentage of people with disabilities is sufficient. My version of the test did not go to much into particular countries/age groups. In the legal arena, like I stated, there was a question about a particular law. I tried to get a sense of which countries had specific laws and what level (ex. WCAG 2.0 AA) that law equated to.

    I think if you have a good grasp on the principles of UD, POUR, and the management/organizational governance section you should be able to deduce the answers. Some questions came up that I had no recollection of reading about in the material, but was able to feel my way through by process of elimination and using common sense.

    One thing that really helped me was making flash cards. Writing them out and then being able to review them while riding in the car (not driving, of course!), during commercial breaks, any little bit of downtime helped with burning the info into my brain.

    Good luck and let me know how you do!

  6. Thank you so much for your reply, that’s really put my mind at ease. I thought about flash cards, good recommendation. There are a couple of sets already on Quizlet so I’ll take a proper look at them over the weekend and maybe make my own set on paper as well and then get into the habit of using them in the run up to the exam. Will let you know how it goes! 🙂

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Rose Peruski

Rose is part of the Detroit Business Unit working as a QA tester on the Accessibility team.

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