PEAT Talks Transcript: The IAAP and the Growth of a Global Accessibility Profession

Introduction

Hello everyone and welcome to this August edition of PEAT Talks, the virtual speaker series from the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology. We host this talk on the third Thursday of the month. And PEAT Talks is designed to showcase the various organizations and individuals whose work and innovations are advancing accessible technology in the workplace. My name is Josh Christianson. I'm the project director for PEAT. And I am glad to be hosting today's talk.

Before we get started, I'm going to quickly review a few logistics. First and foremost, we will have time for Q&A at the end. So, please enter your questions into the chat window you can see there at any time and we will either jump in real time or save them for the end and try to get as many questions as we can. So please utilize the chat window there. You can also use the chat window if you have any technical difficulties, any issues just logging on or hearing or whatever. Feel free to use that and we will try to triage and resolve any issues you're having. You can download the presentation from our website, PEATworks.org -- P-E-A-T-W-O-R-K-S .org. And we will have an archived recording to be posted online following today's event.

See the information on the slide there, should you need anything additionally. For folks interested in social media, we will be live tweeting today's event from our @PEATworks address. So, please feel free to join us and follow along. And really, the best way to do that is to use the #PEATtalks. So that's two "t's" and an "s," hashtag P-E-A-T-T-A-L-K-S. And please include our guest, if you'd like, @Rob_Sinclair -- Robert, excuse me, @Robert -- R-O-B-E-R-T -- _Sinclair -- S-I-N-C-L-A-I-R. So, without further ado, I would love to introduce our esteemed guest.

We are pleased to welcome Rob, President of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals Global Leadership Team, who has worked in the accessibility field for 18 years. He's held a variety of roles within Microsoft in both engineering and corporate governance. He has been active across the industry, working with assistive technology developers, government agencies working towards employment and education, and helping to start cross-industry collaborations to advance the pursuit of accessible content and solutions. In addition to being President of the IAAP Global Leadership Team, Rob is currently the chief accessibility architect for Microsoft -- Microsoft's Global UX Practice. And when he does find spare time among all these roles Rob volunteers his time as a conservation wildlife and nature photographer to support campaigns for his favorite nonprofits in the Pacific Northwest, where he resides.

Today, Rob will be talking about IAAP and its approach to encourage the growth of a worldwide accessibility profession. It's an important time in the global accessibility field because IAAP and G3ict recently announced their merger. So this webinar will cover information about IAAP's active member community, education, and certification programs to help us all keep up to date and keep our skills up to date with tools and templates IAAP has created to help organizations build and run their own internal accessibility program. So we are super excited to track -- we've been tracking this topic. We're glad to discuss it and dive into it. Rob has been a huge supporter of PEAT and a very active member of our think tank. So, really, thank you, Rob, for always being a support to the field, to our organization, and to the issue on a whole. So, without further ado, I'm going to pass it over to Rob and let him lead us through today's conversation.

Presentation

Well, thanks very much, Josh. I really appreciate it. I really appreciate the opportunity to be here today. And wow, it looks like we've got a lot of great -- a lot of turnout here, there's a lot of great people on the line. So, looking forward to this today. Thanks everybody. So, yeah, so what I really wanted to do is start off by sharing a little bit about how we got started on IAAP. There was a group of us who were already working in the field. And what we saw was this definite set of patterns. One was the number of different roles -- job roles we needed to be involved in the solution/creation process was growing. It's not just about designers and developers. It's about a very broad range of perspectives, all the way from HR, human resources to marketing, to the business leaders that need to buy in and come to work. So, a really broad range of people, including training professionals.

The second is a lot of great work is happening around the world related to accessibility, but in many cases there's isolation, and so people don't really know what other organizations on, you know, the other side of the ocean might have done to solve the problems that they're working to solve. So, not a lot of really clear ways of sharing best practices and then sharing what's working and what isn't working.

The third is that it's a really complex space. There's a lot to know. There's a lot to learn and it's not a static environment. So there's a lot of things changing and growing. And all of this is also influenced by the fact that disability and aging and the use of mobile technologies is all really coming together in a way that means that these same solutions we were building originally for, you know, traditionally-diagnosed disabilities are really valuable for a much, much broader range of individuals. And so we were talking with G3ict at the time and they were looking at this in a slightly different way but had some really complementary observations. For example, there's a large number of -- there are many activities around the world related to policy-making, new laws, new regulations, or new procurement activities. And these are all focused on the challenge of really trying to incent or perhaps force the right kind of outcomes from the companies and organizations building solutions and technologies. 

There's, of course, the aging of the -- in the markets that I mentioned, aging in the workforce. There's the shifting demographics in the balance of the younger populations that are contributing to social programs and services versus those people who are later in life and are starting to need to draw on those programs. And we've seen, you know, changes in the age of retirement in developed nations as well. So many people are choosing to work longer and later in life, where, in some cases, they need to. And so all of this comes together to form this interesting fabric.

And then, on top of that, you have the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which has now been ratified by 166 countries -- a pretty phenomenal number. And many people here may be familiar with this, but what ratification means is it's an actual commitment by that government to take specific actions related to creating an acceptable digital society, effectively, work, school, and education and social environments for the disabled and the aging populations. And so there is all these different factors coming together. And so in our organizations were talking -- you know, people on the call here, I think, we were all kind of sharing this shared sense that there's just a lot happening and we really didn't have a coordinated global effort that covers all of these different dimensions. A lot of good individual things happening around the world, but we really wanted to try to bring it together.

And if you haven't seen the G3ict report from a couple of years ago, 2013, specifically around capacity-building, we have a link here. I'd suggest you read it, if you're interested in more of the context. It really does a fantastic job of framing out some of that opportunity. And so with all of this, we came up with this idea of forming a global profession around accessibility with this mission. It's really about defining, promoting, and improving the profession worldwide by investing in a couple of key areas, networking, education, and certification. And this isn't just focused on web accessibility or software. We believe this should be focused on creating accessible products and services and content, because all of that comes together to really create whatever those solutions are that we all need, every day in today's more digital lifestyle.

So, with that mission, we identified four strategic goals. The first was let's create a successful sustainable organization so that, you know, we can really be organized and coordinated in our work around the world. The third was -- or the second was really helping an individual as that person, depending upon what their role is, what their core functions are, what their level of experience or expertise is, let's help them have a clear -- excuse me -- a clear path for developing their skills and staying up to date. The second is, more broadly, the organizations around the world, whether public or private sector, many of them need help understanding how you create accessibility as a normal part of doing business or running -- providing services or running a business. And then the fourth is really what stitches all of that together, which is this worldwide community of people who are dedicated and passionate about accessibility, trying to understand what works and what doesn't work, sharing what they've learned and, you know, the success stories they have of what has really proven to be effective, whether that's selling the business case to their leadership or creating a great solution for customers.

So these are the four areas we really started going after as an organization. And to do that, we created a set of programs, we invested in our online communities, we developed, you know, groups of volunteers. Part of our members who wanted to work on each of these challenges and problems safely. So this -- we do have a set of online communities today where people are engaging every day to get questions answered, suggest their opinions, or just ask for help. We have professional education and certification. In particular, at CSUN this last year, we launched our first professional certification in record time for an organization. I think we're one of the fastest to deliver its first certification that is an official credential product. And this is really the core competencies. It's a long name, it's Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies. The acronym is CPACC. So we just call it CPACC for short.

So the CPACC is really our first certification. And it's designed for anyone interested in the field of accessibility who wants to get a baseline knowledge of, you know, what is accessibility, make sure they're up to speed on the common disabilities, what are assistive technologies, standards and policies around the world. There are more coming, because we realize that a single certification can't possibly serve the diverse range of people that are active in the field. And so we have some really good feedback already on needing one around web accessibility, and possibly one around public policy, people working in the legal sector. So we're really looking at that. We're also -- we've already had feedback from the first round of people who've taken the exam for the CPACC, and we're going to go through and make some additional enhancements to -- and this is where 3Gict can help us -- really make sure that it's representing the true global perspective as part of that core competency.

So, in addition to the certification, we've also got those -- we have, of course, a membership program for individuals and organizations. We participate in other events that are hosted, like CSUN, like ATIA, like [inaudible] enabling conferences. And then we also held our first stand-alone event last fall to really see what -- to kind of explore this and see how would it work to have a dedicated event for us to do networking, really share ideas and get to know each other as members of IAAP. Really popular. We were planning to have another one this fall. Because of the merger and all of the activities to make sure we maintain continuity of operations and services, we decided to delay that to next spring. So we're disappointed about that, but we think that's the right thing to do for our members.

Then we have a career center, and then a set of other resources, like a monthly newsletter, some tools and templates online, some bodies of knowledge. And this is really all designed to start to create a repository of content that our members, whether an organization or individual, can use. And I think one of the key points here is that what we've been really trying to do is not reinvent what has already been done. There's an incredible number of smart people who have already done fantastic work for accessibility. What we're trying to do is instead of reinvent, we want to try to amplify the good work that's already happened.

There's a book out there -- I see Jeff Klein is on the call, for example. He wrote a great book on organizational accessibility, how do you incorporate that in. That's a great resource. We just want to amplify it and make sure people are aware of it. We're working with the W3C on web accessibility and how do we think about -- when we talk about, you know, creating a certification for web accessibility? Well we clearly want to do that in partnership with W3C and Judy Brewer and the whole team over there. So I think that's one of the underlying core principles that is really important about IAAP is we're here to help stitch together the great work that's happening and really amplify what is going well, and then decide where is it we need to be investing our time and resources to start to fill the gaps or to take it to the next level. 

So, as part of that, I want to -- I want to stop and do a poll here to understand what kinds of resources would be useful for you in your work around accessibility, in particular if there are things that we've listed that you think are really valuable, that would be great. Love to get that feedback. And if there are other things we -- you know, we're not doing, then love to hear that as well. So if we can tee up that poll, that would be fantastic. 

Thanks, Rob. We're going to pull up the poll. Folks should see it and be able to click. If you're having any accessibility issues, you can use the chat window to enter your questions. The question is "What IAAP programs and resources are valuable to you or your organization?" And your options are online IAAP community, professional education, IAAP professional certifications, and online career center and job postings. We'll leave it open for one more second. Rob, are you able to see the information coming in?

I am. I'm watching it fly in here.

Great. So we're going to leave it open one more second. Why don't we go ahead, grab that information for your purposes, Rob, and we'll close it out and go back to the discussion.

All right. Do I need to broadcast that or you guys broadcast that?

You can go ahead and do it -- I mean, I can do it since I asked the questions. But it was a fair distribution. We have about -- folks can probably see -- 40%, 44% mentioned online communities. Another 50% said education. These are wacky numbers. Maybe you can click more than one. 

You can. You can.

Okay, so it's multiple things. So two-thirds saw the certification, which is kind of a big push that you all moved through was the most valuable resource. And another 20-plus percent mentioned online and career centers. So, lots of people clicking multiple options that they see as valuable. Thank you. 

That's great. This is really nice feedback. I appreciate it. And while I'm talking to this, you know, we have another poll also, which might be interesting, if we can still pull that up, of just the kind of composition of kind of what kinds of roles are represented by people on the call. If we could pull that up as well, that would be great. If we can still do that. So that's really helpful on the poll of the resources. So thanks everybody for that feedback. It sounds like we may be on the right track. So we'll keep on cranking on that.

So the second poll is up. I'm able to see it; I hope you folks are, too. It says "What is your role within your organization?" So trying to get a feel for who's there. Lots of options here. There's HR talent acquisition, management leadership, product design and development, educator trainer, accessibility consulting, accessing nonprofits, legal/regulatory, and the all-encompassing "Other." So we'll give folks a couple of minutes to chime in there. It looks like we have another decent distribution, heavy on the accessibility consulting, also HR talent acquisition, management leadership. We've got a fair amount of "Others" in there.

Others, yeah.

And some product and design is about 11%. So, a pretty -- a pretty good and diverse group you've got here. 

Yeah, that's great. That's really nice to see. Okay, well, perfect. Well, then let's go back. I only have a few more slides because I wanted to allow plenty of time for conversation as well. So, with all of that context of kind of what we've been doing, I talked a little bit earlier about, you know, why we would think about this merger with G3ict. So, you know, it may be apparent, and hopefully it is, that our missions have been really well-aligned from the beginning. We've always worked closely with G3ict, in particular because of their global charter as part of the U.N. The G3ict, in case some people aren't familiar with it, that's the nonprofit that was started by the U.N. as the organization that would drive adoption and implementation of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

So, you know, they have a really broad network of organizations and leaders that they work with in both public and private sector to help them understand the convention, what is really expected for both the aging and disability populations. And then, in many cases, once those organizations have decided, yes, they're committed to doing it, then they turn to G3ict and ask, "Okay, well how do we go do this?" And that's where, you know, they point it back to the community and the set of consultants and organizations around the world, and also to us to say, "Hey, you know, IAAP is actually trying to help amplify a lot of this great work and really pull it all together with this formal training certification."

And so it really seems like a great mutual benefit for us. We both had some duplication of efforts, you know, even around events and newsletters and just day-to-day operations that we thought, "Well if we came together, we'd get some immediate optimization there to lower our costs." But also, in particular, it's really the -- you know, it's their global reach and it's the conversations that they're having, which is a natural fit with the fact that we're really trying to amplify and draw together and grow this global network of people around the world in a variety of job roles, who understand accessibility, why it's important, and how to do it. And so it's just a really great marriage. And so we're really excited about the decision. We feel really solid on that. And like I said, we are now working on making sure we get everything transferred over, everything's up and running.

And then we have a big meeting next month to really sit down and look back at our strategic priorities, look at what we're investing in for the next year. For example, I mentioned some -- you know, some open questions about which certifications connect. And so we really want to tip that course and then move back into execution mode. And so that's one reason I was really excited about today's webinar is I think it's a great opportunity to hear from you. Since all of you are involved in accessibility, what is it, you know, you would like to see G3ict and IAAP do together? What is it we could really do to help improve and accelerate accessibility?

And so with that, you know, some of our anticipated results are, you know, no change in benefits and services for our members. We expect that this will provide the opportunity to accelerate our global reach as a professional organization. We also think -- and, you know, I mentioned this a little bit a minute ago -- we think we can also help connect the professionals that we know about in different regions of the world with the organizations that are looking to invest in accessibility. So one of our hopes is that we can really become a great advocate and, you know, a point of connection for the people around the world who do have expertise and may not be fully tasked. They may be looking for work. We'd love to be an organization that can help connect them up with organizations that have a need for accessibility.

And one of the overarching pieces here as well is, you know, expanding on the professional certification we've already built, you know, the existing one, renewing that content; expanding the number of skills that we're covering; and then also really looking to see what are the other strategic partnerships, what are the other organizations that are doing great work that we don't know about. Because like everyone else, we're individuals working in the field; right? I'm a volunteer for IAAP, just like everyone else is, and so I have a day job. I also have a hard time keeping track of all the different new technologies and new standards and new policies, you know, the new blogs and books and presentations that are done on accessibility. So I benefit from this as much as everyone else. It's just hard to keep track. You know, my role at Microsoft spans beyond North America. And so I'm also a member -- what's the commercial about the guy, "I'm not just the -- I'm just not just a customer of the hair men's club," or whatever, "I'm also --."

"I'm also a client." Yeah, a client.

That's it. "I'm not just the President, I'm the client." I guess I should use the same spiel because, you know, it's true, I'm in the trenches every day trying to understand how to make this product accessible or how to design a better website that's accessible. So I'm still learning, and I know that everybody else is, too. So, ultimately, the goal here, which I think is the bottom line, which is literally why I put it on the bottom line of the slide, is we're all here to really improve the lives of people with disabilities around the world. And we think this is our best idea of how to do it, but we would love to have you get involved. And whether you're an organization, getting your organization involved, if you're an individual and you're not already involved, please get involved. We could really use your help and expertise. We'd love to share what we know.

And there are some companies that have already started taking our certification and building it into their formal career paths for people who are working on accessibility. And, you know, I thought that was such a great idea. It's not something I had actually thought of doing. And so I think there's three companies that have already done that in the last two months. So it's something to think about. If you've got a career path for people working in accessibility, it may be a great thing to think about incorporating into their career development. It's certainly something we are working with the Teach Access organization on. They're doing great work. If you don't know about them, they're also working to create, you know, this push for accessibility to be part of job description. And so we would love to see this credential, for example, starting to show up on job descriptions related to accessibility.

So, you know, that's really -- we'd love to get you involved, get your employees involved. And in particular, not just today but moving forward, if there are things that we're not doing that you think we could be doing to help you be more successful, we'd love to hear that. And likewise, we always love positive feedback, like everyone else. If there's something we're doing right, love to hear that as well, too. So with that, I really wanted to pause and leave some time for Q&A. So let's open it up.

Sure. Thank you. Thank you, Rob, for, you know, being involved and, like you said, volunteering your time for IAAP. It's impressive to see people with so much to be done and multiple ways to tackle it, but you all have really pushed forward and made some good progress, especially with Teach Access and everyone. So, just thank you for your time and efforts there. I want to encourage people to use the chat window to chime in with questions. We've got some that have come in. And I've got one here that I'll read out to you. It says, "When is the next CPACC exam, or is this something I can take anytime?"

Great question. I believe we do have specific time windows, because what we like to do is -- in fact, we just did one that ended July 18th. It takes about four to six weeks to score all those and get the results back to the participants. So there are typically, at least at this point and the way we've approached it so far, there are exam windows. And the next one is, I believe, October. So I'm happy to share information on that, on specific dates. But, yeah, I believe it's October. And it is not specifically tied to a location, that you can take it online as well. So we work with a testing -- a professional testing company that has centers around the world as well. So if you do want to go into a physical center or need that for an accommodation, we have that available as well. So, yeah, so there's a lot of flexibility in how to take the exam. 

Great. I have some other specific IAAP questions here, but before I do that, because of your vast experience in the accessibility field, I want to take a step back and just ask you how you felt, like, the culture of accessibility has been changing in recent years, both nationally and then also from the international perspective you have?

Yeah, you know, it's really interesting. If we look back about five or six years, there was a lot of fragmentation -- a lot of risk of fragmentation in accessibility standard. And so a lot of us are spending time really trying to persuade different companies or different countries around the world to harmonize, not only in the standards but also in even the definition of accessibility, and certainly in the laws and regulations they put in place. So I feel like we've made some fantastic progress there. I think WCAG 2.0 really was a great unifying force for that. I think Section 508 in the U.S. and the UNCRPD are very complementary with other things that are happening in Europe, like the European 301 549, which is, in some respect, similar to 508 here in the U.S. But a lot of these things are also being revised to start to bring in, you know, some of these directly -- in particular, to directly reference international standards. And so I think that's one of the big trends we've seen is I think we're spending less time now focusing on harmonization and more on what are the right solutions, what's the reasonable way to actually develop a public policy that can be enforceable but is realistic and achieves the goal.

Culturally, I think, also there have been, just in the consultant -- the individual people on the ground that are doing the hard work of advising organizations or building solutions in content. I think there's been a lot of really healthy discussion in the last three or four years about things like IAAP and individual consultants and how we all work to be effective together. And I feel like, I think, at least my perspective has certainly evolved in that way. And I feel like there's a lot of people starting to come together and think about how they can leverage the work of other people and work together more.

We've seen, you know, consolidation in the assistive technology market, even in the last couple of months with Ai Squared and JAW-- the Freedom Scientific, those guys merging. And before that it was Window-Eyes and GW Micro. And so in both the technology, I think we've seen convergence, I think as a profession we're starting to see convergence between communities and bodies of knowledge and activities. I think now with things like the Teach Access that's driving education to the university curriculum, and IAAP building it into the workplace and the career path, I think we're starting to see the alignment appear there as well.

So my answer to your question is I feel like accessibility is definitely moving in the right direction. There's a lot of technical problems still to be solved. There's a lot of cultural issues where people still don't really understand it. They either oversimplify it or discount it, and that could be business leaders or people who just aren't familiar with what it really means. And I think the one trend that will ultimately make all of it go away is aging and the use of mobile technologies. You know, we're all aging. We all need more flexible solutions. And with mobile devices taking over the world, that puts all of us in situations where the way we use that technology is constrained. And I personally have found that to be one of the most compelling moments of enlightenment, I'll say, for people who are new to accessibility, to just talk to them about how difficult it is to use that mobile phone in a really noisy environment or really bright sunlight or when their hands are full. And you can start to bridge into an experience that they can relate to. And then you introduce them to the disability community and it all just kind of melts away. So I think -- I think it's really positive. But there's plenty of work left to do, that's for sure.

Yep. Well, again, thank you for this work and for sharing it. Extra thanks for all you do in PEAT to kind of push this culture of accessibility forward and the discussions we've shared and the connections you've made for us. I think it's an exciting space and place and important work, and really appreciate your efforts in all of it. So, folks, see the information on the slide there. If you have other questions or want to follow up, you can definitely reach out to the info question there, and they'll be able to answer questions for you. You can also reach out to us at PEAT and we'll do it.

Conclusion

That's really all the time we have for today. Definitely visit their website you see there on the screen, www.accessibilityassociation.org. And don't forget to join us for next month's PEAT Talk. It's Thursday, September 15th, so right in the middle of the month. It's an early third Thursday. Always at 2:00 PM. And our guest is going to be Gregg Vanderheiden, who will be discussing the GPII, the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure and the research that they're doing on that, and the potential it has to really impact the employment of people with disabilities. Some really cool work. Some really futurist stuff that we look forward to hearing about from Gregg. So you can find the registration link on PEATworks.org. Look for an email with it. We'd love to have you join us. 

So, in closing, just a big, special thanks, Rob, for speaking with us today. And for all of you who took the time to join us, enjoy the rest of your afternoon. Thanks so much. 

Yeah, thanks so much everybody. I really appreciate you making the time.

All right. Thanks, Rob.