A successful accessibility career isn’t only about accessibility. And in tech, you need to be continuously learning.
Note: I am not endorsing any of the classes below, I have not taken any of them personally. But I’ve had a generally good educational experiences with the identified platforms (Coursera, EdX, Udacity) with the exception that some of them have sketchy accessibility implementation.
I have broken down what I think is essential into five sets of skills groups, which depend on where you want your career to go:
Learn about QA/Auditing methodology
Accessibility is, at its most abstract level, just a specialized form of software QA or auditing, based on regulations — not really that much different than privacy or security. Yes, you can be a perfectly adequate accessibility tester without formal QA/Auditing methodology training. But you can be an exceptional accessibility tester with it.
Here are a few courses that could help you acquire these skills:
Learn how to Code
If you want to learn how to influence programmers how to code in an accessible manner, it helps if you are able to speak their language. There are literally a kajillion online courses to learn how to code. If you want your coding skills to best align with accessibility, that means you need to focus on the front end. Angular, React JS, and HTML as well as Android and iOS fundamentals are some of the best (and most relevant) choices out there. But remember to apply the learnings of Deque’s WAS training simultaneously so that a) you’ll learn how to develop ACCESSIBLE code, and b) you’ll be able to easily pass the WAS certification if you haven’t already when you are done getting a more comprehensive background in web development.
Learn about Agile
Agile accessibility? Yes, please ! Both people going into accessible coding and accessibility managers should learn about agile. If you are working in tech, chances are that your product development is either following the agile methodology, or is at least trying and failing to follow agile (waterfall anyone?). Figuring out how to best fit accessibility into an agile environment will make all of your accessibility efforts more productive, this knowledge is a “must have” for accessibility managers. Ed X has a agile program management certificate, as do most of the other MOOCs. You would be surprised how many extra doors will open when you can add that you are a certified scrum master on your resume.
Learn about Project Management
To really understand the entire project management universe, you probably need more than one course. I’ve also heard really good things about the UC Berkeley Extension courses in project management, from someone who actually took the certificate program there, but that course is not free.
Coursera has a few free courses (probably to try to attract people into its not-free applied project management specialization certificate) including Project Management Principles.
Universal / Inclusive Design skills
If you want to learn how to influence designers how to design in an accessible manner, you helps if you are able to speak their language. Look for courses that are on generic universal/inclusive design and don’t include accessibility explicitly — you already know all about that, you’re certified, right?
Learn about User Research
The more skills you bring to the table, the more flexible you are. It’s sort of like baseball — most managers would take a player who is really good at 3 or 4 positions over a player who is great, but only at one . User Experience / UX / User Research is an outstanding skill related to accessibility because when a product is more *usable*, it is also inherently more *accessible*
Learn about Product Management
People confuse product and project management all the time. Project management (above) is about scheduling, resourcing, and accountability. Product management is about deciding what goes into the product itself, and prioritization. Understanding users needs is a big part of this, so Product Management is a good thing to study after User Research.
Udacity recently launched a Product Management nanodegree program.
The skills listed in this section are valuable to everyone, no matter what their ultimate career goal is.
Accessibility testers and mangers write a LOT of documentation, and develop a LOT of training material. So why not learn how to be good at it? I learned how to write decently in law school, but I found a class on conveying visual information in powerpoint was really useful in closing the gap in my own writing skills
Learn how to give effective presentations
If you’ve already done the “effective powerpoint” above (or come by those skills naturally) you should focus on the speech side of the equaion. Learning how to give presentations either from joining the Toastmasters Club or learning how to give Pitches are very valuable skills for anyone, especially people in accessibility. Masterclass has some really great business leaders who talk about pitching in their overall courses. Buy an unlimited pass (make sure you use a coupon they’ve got lots of COVID specials going on right now) and as an added bonus you can learn how to make pasta from Gorden Ramsey or how to shoot hoops from Steph Curry.
This is the latest in a series of “accessibility as a career” articles I have written. Other topics have included:
- Hiring an Accessibility Tester? Here is an approach you should consider
- Want an Employee who is a natural problem solver?
- Accessibility Interview Questions
- Interview Questions Accessibility Professionals should Ask
- Attracting Employees with Disabilities
- Policies that Support Employment of People with Disabilities
- Retaining Employees with Disabilities
- Accessibility Job Auditions