The Inaccessibility of Accessibility: Examining Barriers within Industry Standard Accessibility Certifications



  • Brittni Wendling, Digital Accessibility Specialist, Iowa State University
  • Jordan Gongora, Digital Accessibility Specialist, Iowa State University
  • Cyndi Wiley, Digital Accessibility Lead, Iowa State University

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: All Levels
  • Type of session: General Conference


We will discuss industry-standard certifications for accessibility professionals: The Trusted Tester Certification and IAAP certifications. We will examine how content, presentation, and structure misalign with accessibility standards and usability, and review how these certifications cater to non-disabled professionals. We will describe our research on the certification barriers and identify how these certifications can be modified to improve user experience, usability, and accessibility.


Accessibility and usability are often at odds with one another. While the main accessibility industry-standard certifications (Trusted Tester and IAAP) are compliant with WCAG 2.0 AA, the learning is presented as a text-heavy, online screen-based experience. Research in usability and user experience states reading on screen is a barrier to learning.

These certifications cater to non-disabled accessibility professionals, presenting barriers to disabled folks wishing to become certified. Throughout the certification platforms, there is also a misalignment between the educational accessibility content being presented and the ways in which the information is actually displayed on the learning platform. This showcases a hypocrisy-inducing emphasis on the difference between solely teaching about accessibility versus following through, leading by example, and actively producing accessible digital content.

Through a case study, we will examine how the content, presentation, and structure of the certifications misalign between usability and accessibility standards. We will present the user experience, usability, and accessibility findings within the course content. We will share the overall findings of our research about these accessibility certifications creating a disconnect between accessibility and usability.

In the end, we will propose a framework that includes inclusive design, user experience, usability, and accessibility best practices that could be utilized to improve the certifications and also alleviate barriers for disabled folks wishing to earn certifications.


  1. Research on cognitive load indicates it can have a negative effect on screen-based reading/learning.
  2. Industry standard accessibility certification programs are misaligned with usability.
  3. Alleviating barriers for disabled people to earn certifications.

Disability Areas


Topic Areas

Accessible Course Design, Accessible Educational Materials, Research, Teaching about Accessibility in Curriculum, Uncategorized, Universal Design for Learning

Speaker Bio(s)

Brittni Wendling

Brittni Wendling is a Digital Accessibility Specialist at Iowa State University.

Her research interests are digital accessibility, user experience research, user experience design, inclusive design, assistive technologies, and XR.

She is passionate about social justice and inclusion, which translates directly into her research and work to make technological experiences more accessible and inclusive for all.

Her work involves sustaining partnerships across campus for accessibility research; creating and reviewing websites, software, apps, games, and other digital products for accessibility compliance; and discovering and implementing new solutions regarding digital accessibility.

Brittni believes that the future is accessible, and she is doing what she can to work toward that vision. She is known to enjoy a good challenge and strives to incorporate humor into her projects to brighten up work and life.

Brittni holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Public Relations and a Certificate in Leadership Studies from Iowa State University. She is a current Master of Science Degree candidate in Human-Computer Interaction at Iowa State University.

Jordan Gongora

Jordan Gongora is a Digital Accessibility Specialist at Iowa State University.

She graduated from Iowa State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Biological/Pre-Medical Illustration, where she began work on projects which introduced her to the world of educational resources and accessible design.

Jordan is interested in developing accessible practices within the arts. She has a particular interest in accessible gaming and user experience, and how discoveries can impact future waves of content creators.

She is interested in creating content that can leave legacies. She is a firm believer that media can and should be accessible to all, and in prepping content for usability, we are also practicing methods to keep work from becoming obsolete.

Jordan believes that we can and should create and distribute information that no one loses to any barriers, and that we can make a future that’s backwards compatible.

Cyndi Wiley

My research interests relate to the intersection of art with STEM-based curriculum emphasizing creativity and creative thinking. Creative thinking drives innovation by moving away from status quo methods to avant garde methodology. This is achieved from combining seemingly unrelated sources and theories. It can seem bizarre at first, yet by incorporating theories from art, human computer interaction, feminist/womanist education, disability studies, and play from an anthropological and sociological base, students and faculty alike become mutually engaged. Underlying all of my research is inclusion, with focus on Digital Accessibility, LGBTQ+ issues, racial equity, anti-racist pedagogy, and social justice.