What do we mean when we say "accessibility"? Accessibility is about providing access to information for everyone, regardless of age or ability, so that each individual can realize their full potential. Accessibility professionals are subject matter experts who understand the need for inclusion and address these needs through technology. They have knowledge of accessibility requirements and technology implementation guidelines to provide accessible solutions.
The International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) is a not-for-profit membership-based organization for individuals and organizations that are focused on accessibility or are in the process of building their accessibility skills and strategies. The objective of this association is to help accessibility professionals develop and advance their careers and to help organizations integrate accessibility into their products and infrastructure. The IAAP will provide a place for accessibility professionals around the world to gather, share experiences and enrich their knowledge of accessibility.
As of July 2016, IAAP became a division of the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (G3ict). G3ict is an advocacy initiative launched in December 2006 by the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development, in cooperation with the Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities under UN DESA. G3ict relies on an international network of ICT accessibility experts to develop and promote good practices, technical resources and benchmarks for ICT accessibility advocates around the world. It is incorporated as a nonprofit organization in the State of Georgia, USA, and headquartered in Atlanta.
IAAP Strategic Goals
Association DevelopmentDevelop and fully execute a complete governance model to ensure the success of the association both financially and in meeting the overall goals for its membership.
Individual Professional DevelopmentDevelop and implement activities, including a certification program, to enable professionals working in accessibility and those interested in knowing more about accessibility to influence and implement accessibility within any organization.
Organizational DevelopmentDevelop resources and programs by which organizations, corporations and government entities can learn and grow their accessibility strategies to increase overall access and opportunities for persons with disabilities.
Community DevelopmentDevelop a program to make connections amongst the broader accessibility community and beyond to reach the goal of supporting existing efforts and grow the numbers within the profession.
Overview of the ProblemDuring the past 25 years, a great number of advancements have been made toward the goal of more accessible information and communications technology (ICT). This includes advancements in operating systems, developer tools, technical industry standards and the growth of a rich ecosystem of assistive technology products. However, as we reflect on the current state of the industry and today’s ICT solutions, websites and content, it is clear that most are not accessible. Even organizations that have established development best practices are struggling to consistently deliver accessible content and solutions.
Corporations, government agencies and educational institutions worldwide continue to work diligently to understand and respond to the needs of their employees and customers with disabilities, but significant obstacles continue to hinder their success. After many months of discussing this with companies and governments around the world, we have identified some commonly cited challenges:
- It is difficult to keep up with the constant pace of technology churn and innovation.
- There is not a broadly agreed upon understanding of what it means for technology to be accessible, nor is there sufficient guidance regarding how to make it accessible.
- Organizations are struggling to understand how to effectively procure accessible technology and integrate it with their internal systems and infrastructure.
- It is difficult to recruit personnel with expertise in accessibility because there is no established way to assess an individual’s knowledge and experience in this field.
Our research indicates that many people in the technology community who are responsible for implementing accessibility (e.g., designers, developers, quality assurance) have limited knowledge of accessibility and are struggling to satisfy requirements. There is a passionate group of dedicated practitioners who work tirelessly in the pursuit of accessibility, but their own knowledge is largely self-taught. This has led to conflicting recommendations and perpetuates the belief that accessibility is highly complex and ambiguous. Therefore, it has not gained widespread acceptance within the broader IT community and is often described as an art form, rather than a science. Unfortunately, today, there are too few people capable of creating a masterpiece.
Elements of the SolutionAccessibility is a multifaceted challenge that requires technology, assessment, education and more. The solution to such a diverse problem space must be carefully crafted. There are many groups that must be involved in the design of accessible technology, delivery of accessible content, and the growth of a workforce and marketplace that values accessibility.
The reality is that today most of the necessary technology and tools already exist, but they are not being appropriately utilized to produce accessible devices, applications, content, etc. Without these building blocks, it is difficult to establish inclusive workplaces, marketplaces and societies, in general. The one root cause that has surfaced in all the work we have done is that people do not understand accessibility – what it is, why it is important, how to achieve it, and that the pursuit of accessibility actually benefits everyone (not only persons with a disability). We must expand the number of business leaders, designers, engineers, software developers, educators, rehabilitation professionals, etc. who understand accessibility.
We also recognize that technology does, and will continue to, play a fundamental role in shaping the accessibility of the increasingly digitally connected world around us. Therefore, we must invest in programs to dramatically increase the number of IT professionals around the world who possess necessary knowledge and tools to design, develop and deliver accessible solutions. There is a related question regarding how to equip IT developers with a consistent body of knowledge that will contribute to an internationally harmonized approach to accessibility.
Industry and government leaders have been struggling to find a solution to these problems for many years. So, in 2011, we conducted a formal year-long study (with significant support from the U.S. Department of Labor – Office of Disability Employment Policy, ODEP), which led us to the conclusion that a formal accessibility profession is needed.
What will make our profession strong is having you as a member. Regardless of your knowledge level in accessibility, we all play a role in growing this profession. Help guide us to being a great professional association serving our diverse needs.
Through use of IAAP Connections, you can join an existing discussion or even start your own. You can also blog, upload resources to libraries and join some of our committees.
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