Is there a need for a professional accessibility society?

Is there a need for a professional accessibility society? This is the question being discussed by the accessibility cognoscenti. The debate was given focus at the Taking Accessibility Mainstream event, hosted by the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) on 27th February. There is clearly a need for greater accessibility professionalism. Accessibility is currently unregulated and without official professional standards. There are recognised accessibility guidelines, standards for accessibility, and a critical mass of people and companies that consider accessibility their primary field of experience. The inevitable counterpoint is the growing number of people (or companies) that claim they are skilled in accessibility, or who genuinely believe they are but don’t have the knowledge or experience to deliver. A professional society could help solve this problem. Amongst many other things, it could introduce accessibility training programmes and certifications relevant to the different roles within our industry. As discussion gained momentum ahead of the ATIA event, I voiced my concern that a professional society could segregate accessibility, rather than take it mainstream. Listening to Rob Sinclair (Microsoft), Rich Schwerdtfeger (IBM), Peter Korn (Oracle), Judy Brewer (W3C) and many others who shared their thoughts at the ATIA event, I realised that the two things were not mutually exclusive. A professional society could help make accessibility mainstream. It could help create confidence in the marketplace by promoting accessibility as a recognised and trusted profession. Establishing accessibility as a recognised profession could create career pathways that would begin in education and extend into industry. In these (and many other) ways, it would be an opportunity for accessibility to come of age.