If I can get certified, so can you!

Sandra Eriksson, accessibility expert with focus on assistive technology at Funka, passed the written exam on certification organised by the IAAP and can now call herself Web Accessibility Specialist. Here she tells about her anguish before, during and after the test.

Many of us have been in an examination hall. Personally, I have never performed particularly well under the conditions under consideration: in a number of intensive and exhaustive hours, and with writing cramps, sum up weeks of hard studies into a concrete and well-balanced amount of text. I am a person who needs time to take things in and process knowledge in order to be able to structure it comprehensively and put it into practice. As a student in Systems Science, it was also absurd having to program during an exam - on paper.

When I, as one of the first in the Nordic countries, got the offer to make IAAP's certification for accessibility experts, it was hard to say no. Certification. That sounds good. It was also a golden opportunity to test oneself - what have I learned during my so far two years at Funka, and how far is it enough?

Since 2016, I've been working on auditing websites and supporting our customers in their accessibility work. When I started working at Funka, my own knowledge of accessibility on the web did not extend much more than to Alt-texts, links and headings. I knew that WCAG existed but I did not know the guidelines in detail, even though I previously worked with web development and also adapted computers specifically for people with visual impairment. In addition, I have a visual impairment since birth, and since the personal computer's entry into my own life, I have more or less been dependent on magnifying vision aids. Accessibility on the web proved to be somewhat more complex than I had imagined.

At the encouragement of my immediate manager, and assurances that "it's just the test you're worried about, I know you have the knowledge," I chose to proceed with an application to IAAP to get the certification. I’m a time optimistic person, but at the same time also have a long take-off distance, so it is easy to think that there is plenty of time. There is never enough time, which became clear when it turned out that it was not easy to prepare for certification, between WCAG audits, customer visits and stand-ups.

The certification, which consists of a test, would take place at the end of April, just over a week after Funka Accessibility Days. I was given a unique opportunity to ask general questions to Samantha Evans at the IAAP in Atlanta, which was invited as a speaker at Funka Accessibility Days. She was very helpful and answered clearly and extensively on the questions I had about the certification.

It is approaching

The test day came. The test participants gathered in the largest of Funka's conference rooms, and we were placed with a good distance between each other. Frida, project manager for IAAP in the Nordic region served as invigilator. She informed us thoroughly about the IAAP's regulations and described all the practical details in detail.

Since the certification has not been performed in Sweden earlier, it was all new to us all, which felt a bit solemn but also somewhat uncertain.

Anyone who has ever done a test and felt somewhat unprepared for it, is probably familiar with the feeling that appears when actually being faced with the questions in reality. The total lack of thought activity that appears, and the shock of not being able to phrase a single useful thought. Anyhow, that is the way I have felt almost every time I had an exam, until the synapses have begun to work again. Exactly that feeling obviously was repeated and I got very clear flashbacks to some of my worst moments of exam anxiety. When the worst shock had subsided, I realized that it was probably not as dangerous as I had first believed. I got through the questions one by one. I read carefully and when I thought I had understood a question correctly, I read it again to make sure I understood it. The time went by. Two hours may seem like a long time, but time never goes as fast as during an exam. It's like the time both stops and runs away at the same time. Suddenly I had come to the last page of the test and realized that there still was some time left. So, afterwards, I think that may has been crucial: I had time to go back and review my answers, which also resulted in some changes.

When it all was over, only one thing remained - several weeks of uncertainty and a new type of anxiety. Results Anxiety. My spontaneous feeling when I left the examination hall was that it had gone well. The results would take about six weeks to get and meanwhile it was not difficult to work with other tasks. But the longer the time, I became more and more sure that the feeling I had when I left the examination hall that Friday afternoon in April was wrong and really just described the ease of getting the exam over with.

I received the answer one morning almost exactly a month later on my way to work. I was on the subway and started my day by going through emails and BANG!, then it was just there. From: Samantha Evans; Subject: IAAP Spring 2018 Exam Results. Either it would be a good day, or a not as good day. I opened the email and scrolled slowly down, just like it would make a difference to the result. "Dear Sandra: ... Congratulations!". What? Is this right? Can they have made a mistake, sending it to the wrong person?

I was very relievied. I made it! I am one of the first in the Nordic countries to certify as an accessibility expert. A currently small number of people, that I hope will increase in the future. At the end of June, another month later, the diploma was delivered into my analog mailbox. It will soon adorn the wall at my desk in our office landscape. It's just a small piece of paper, but I hope it will inspire both colleagues and customers to also get certified and thus do something that currently is unique!

Sandra Eriksson