Media Access Australia spoke with Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility graduate Umesh Gupta, Human Resources Information and Systems (HRIS) Consultant at Deakin University in Melbourne on the relevance of accessibility in HR and the opportunities for upskilling organisation-wide.
Media Access Australia: What would you say your prior knowledge of accessible websites was before you started the course?
Umesh: Nothing really, apart from the fact that it is very important. I worked in an Equity and Diversity Unit’s Disability Resource Centre for a year and had got an idea of why it is important and what are the issues that people face and that’s about it. Never really knew and understood what can I do and how can I fix it.
Why do you think that accessibility knowledge is an important skill set for information analysts and HRIS consultants?
I feel it is very much relevant for an Information Analyst especially if some part of their job description includes web communication. A thorough understanding of accessibility helps web communicators write usable content. I feel usability and accessibility are related in some ways. We have even run a few sessions on Writing for Web at our workplace.
As more and more ICT applications are going in the cloud and even more of them having web interfaces, it is of utmost important for the HRIS professional to ensure the self-serve portal of HR system in their organisation is accessible by all staff.
What attracted you to the Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility and led to you enrolling in the course?
I attended the OZeWAI conference held at La Trobe University a couple of years ago and that’s where I found out about the Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility. When our organisation was planning to roll out their Disability Action Plan, I created a business case highlighting the course details and the value it will add and sent it to my manager. My study was supported by my organisation as they were able to see the bigger picture.
How did you find mixing with other people from different backgrounds? Was that a useful addition to the course content?
Trying to understand what accessibility is from a different perspective was one of the highlights of the course for me. I learnt so much just by reading the comments and blog contributions of everyone in the course. For my assignments I worked with a diverse team located in various parts of the country and the experience was worthwhile.
What did you think were the main things that you learnt from the course?
One of the important things that I learnt was how a screen reader works. Being a CMS user I had never thought of using a screen reader to check my websites for accessibility. One of the course exercises which required us to close our eyes and read a site using a screen reader was a real eye opener for me.
The fact that some of the very basic things that we tend to ignore when building our site could actually be the deciding factor between an accessible and inaccessible website was an important lesson to learn too.
Learning to caption videos and the fact that it is not that hard was very much satisfying. The list can go on; all I can say is the course is worth the time you put in.
If you were to recommend this course to others, what reasons would you give them to do it?
Apart from the compliance reasons I would say this course will open a whole new world for you. A genuine interest is also required. All I can say is this course will help you take a step in the right direction to make a difference in the world.
What can you tell us about how you’ve applied the knowledge you gained in the course to your work over the past year?
Since then, all the websites in my area have been built keeping the WCAG 2.0 AA standards in mind. I have also made myself available to other parts of my organisation to contact me in case they need help.
I presented on web accessibility at the 2013 Digital Presence Seminar. I received a lot of appreciation for it and I have also heard some of them have already enrolled in the Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility.
I have been invited as a speaker at a HR Systems Alesco Conference held at the Rialto Melbourne in May 2014 to talk about web accessibility.
What do you think you will do next to further develop your accessibility knowledge?
Applying the knowledge more and more is the very minimum I can do. The fact that I had opportunities to promote it and make a difference is also helping me research more and learn more about accessibility in general and things happening around the world related to accessibility.
It is an ongoing process and you cannot know enough. As I always believe “No one is beyond learning”.
Want to learn more about WCAG 2.0 and web accessibility?
The Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility, a university-accredited online qualification jointly conducted by W3C member Media Access Australia and the University of South Australia, is a fully assessed six-week program that covers both accessibility principles and techniques. The course provides students with all the essentials needed to achieve compliance with international best practice in accessibility.