Thoughts on a Society of Accessibility Professionals
Léonie Watson writes from her perspective as director of accessibility at Nomensa (a UK-based Web design and development
There is a strong esprit de corps amongst the people who work in accessibility. It’s founded on the belief that the digital
world should be more inclusive, and it’s tempered by the shared experiences of championing that belief.
At its heart, accessibility is a grassroots movement. Today accessibility is part of global corporations and government
departments. There are agencies and consultants that provide accessibility services, and in almost every case, there is an
accessibility champion at the heart of the activity. Somebody, somewhere, who believed that the digital world should be an
inclusive place, and who decided to do something about it.
Accessibility champions have taken digital accessibility and evolved it into a growth industry. At a time of considerable
global economic challenge, people are beginning to recognise that maximising their digital budget makes sense. Accessibility
is a core part of that strategy, and there is a growing demand for people who can deliver the
benefits accessibility brings.
When any industry reaches this point, two things tend to happen. Demand outstrips capacity, and the opportunists move in to
fill the gap. This is the current state of play with accessibility.
There is a global skills shortage. Talk to any accessibility champion, and you’ll hear the same message: we need more people
with the right skills and expertise.
Herein lies a problem though. It isn’t easy to find the right people. Universities, colleges and schools are not turning out
people with accessibility skills. There is no recognised curriculum or body of knowledge to explain how accessibility relates
to procurement, project management, usability, design or development in a harmonised way.
Meanwhile, the opportunists are moving in. It’s increasingly common to hear of organisations being let down by the
“accessibility professionals” they brought in. People and agencies who add accessibility to their credentials because they
see the rise in demand and hope to capitalise on it.
As an industry we need to respond to these challenges. As accessibility champions, we have the ability to do so.
Imagine if we could take the professionalism that exists, and define it so that other people could recognise it and aspire to
Imagine if we could take the knowledge that exists, and create a body of knowledge that people could learn from directly or
incorporate into mainstream tuition?
Imagine if we could take the experience that exists, and develop a mentorship programme that would enable newcomers to
flourish and grow in confidence?
Imagine if we could do all those things in a way that created trust, reliability and confidence in our profession?
The best way for us to achieve this is together. As accessibility champions we created a growth industry. As accessibility
professionals we need to make it a sustainable industry, and as a society of accessibility professionals, we can make sure it
is an industry that is reflected in every aspect of an inclusive digital world.