• Kat Fenton

Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies

Updated: Jun 2

From the International Association of Accessibility Professionals





Now that the pandemic is coming to an end (knock on wood) I've finally gotten a chance to breathe and rethink what I want to do with my future. Right out of college, I think I wanted to live the American Dream; get married, have kids, white picket fence, etc. But I'm realizing that's not for me. I don't like kids. Lawns are bad for the environment. I want so much space that I don't need a fence.


So I'm pursuing a different direction. To start myself off, I've been prepping for the CPACC (certified professional in accessibility core competencies) exam. In this article you'll find the core curriculum. Hopefully, this little guide that I've created for myself will help someone else pass their test too! Just as a disclaimer, I'm not an official source of information nor am I sponsored by the IAAP. I truly suggest reading their content outline for the CPACC certification as it contains a lot of important information.


7 Theoretical Models of Disability

  1. The Medical Model: Disability is a problem directly caused by disease, trauma, or another health condition

  2. The Social Model: Disability is not the individuals problem. It is only an impairment due to the social environment around them

  3. Biopsychosocial Model: Disabilities are a complex phenomenon that integrate social and medical issues

  4. Economic Model: Disability is defined by an individuals inability to participate in work

  5. Social Identity and Cultural Affiliation Models: a person's identity is derived from membership to a group of like minded individuals

  6. Functional Solutions Model: Identifies the limitations of an individual with a disability with the intent to create a promote solutions

  7. Charity Model: People with disabilities are less fortunate and in need of assistance from the outside

All of these models have their strengths and weaknesses. For example, the functional solutions model often provides ways for people with disabilities to do things they have never done before. The downside is, this model reduces people to their disability and ignores any individuality they might have. I think a lot of designers end up falling into that category.


Vision Disabilities

  1. Blindness

  2. Color Blindness

  3. Low Vision

There are some very obvious barriers for those with vision disabilities; lack of alternate reading material such as braille, video content without text or audio alternatives, and online images, controls, and structural elements that don't provide text alternatives just to name a few. However, there are a few barriers that are not so obvious. Online content should always be resizable for those using resizing applications. Layouts should also be consistent and predictable for screen readers and text to braille keyboards. Speakers at events should also provide descriptions or navigation when using visuals in presentations or demonstrations.


Auditory Disabilities

  1. Deafness

  2. Hard of Hearing

  3. Central Auditory Processing Disorder

People with auditory disabilities often face a lot of barriers when it comes to spoken language. Not having sign language interpretation or audio with captions or transcripts can be a big problem. It's also important to consider websites and applications that require voice interaction or listening for understanding may also be difficult for people with auditory disabilities to use. For people with central processing disorder, loud environments with competing sounds and other people who speak softly may also be barriers.


Deaf-Blindness Disability

People who experience both deafness and blindness face a unique set of barrier. Audio must always have transcripts that can be output to a braille device and sign language interpretation must be tactile.


Speech Disabilities

  1. Articulation

  2. A speech-sound disorder

  3. A phonological process disorder

  4. A motor speech disorder

  5. Aphasia

  6. No Speech

The primary barrier for those with speech disabilities is a lack of text based alternatives.


Mobility, Flexibility, and Structure Disabilities

  1. Fine Motor Control or Manual Dexterity

  2. Ambulation

  3. Muscle Fatigue

  4. Body Size or Shape

Social discrimination and body shaming are big barriers to people with mobility, flexibility, and structure disabilities. Steps, thresholds, and obstacles to entry can also cause problems. When designing applications it is important to put controls within reach and give the option of voice commands instead of touch. Small and wrong height seating is also a barrier for people with these disabilities.


Cognitive Disabilities

  1. Intellectual Disabilities

  2. IQ below 70-75

  3. Limitations in adaptation

  4. Condition starts before 18

  5. Reading and Dyslexia

  6. Math and Computation

  7. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

  8. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

There are many barriers to people with cognitive disabilities such as complex sentences, vocabulary, page layouts, and navigation. Long passages of text and animated or blinking images can also cause problems. Be sure to provide the option to turn off audio whenever there is a video or audio player.


Seizure Disabilities

  1. General Seizure Disorder

  2. Photosensitivity Epilepsy

Activities in which sudden loss of consciousness could cause harm are major barriers to people with seizure disabilities. Moving and flickering content as well as sites and video players without an off option can pose a hazard too.


Psychological Disabilities

  1. Social Disabilities

  2. Emotional Disabilities

  3. Behavioral Disabilities

Social stigma, lack of knowledge among healthcare providers, and lack of mental health services can all be barriers to those with psychological disabilities.


Some people may experience multiple disabilities such as autism and deafness or speech and auditory disabilities. It is important therefore to design to be as accessible as possible. In the next article I'll go over some of the assistive technologies available to each disability as well as disability etiquette.