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I recently became a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Trusted Tester, after completing an 80 hour training program and passing two exams. Whew! It’s rigorous but was a great introduction to the world of accessibility and I am happy to be able to complete web audits and assist organizations in improving their accessibility.
(Also, now that I’ve completed that training I realize my own website is rather hostile so I’ll be taking steps to improve that.)
What is WCAG?
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG are the guidelines produced by W3C (World Wide Web Consortium, an international standards organization for the internet) for how to create accessible content. Currently WCAG 2.1 is the most updated version, and WCAG Version 3 is currently in development. This is the roadmap for how to make content accessible.
The Trusted Tester training mirrors WCAG for the most part, but there are some components covered in it that are not covered in that training due to the inability to devise proper testing for them (in particular, preventing seizures with flashing lights is hard to test in a way that doesn’t place people who have a seizure disorder at risk.)
What is Section 508?
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that the federal government buy technology that is WCAG-compliant, and ensure their websites are WCAG-compliant. Part of how they do this is by having Trusted Testers complete this training program and then auditing websites during development and after completion so they can be made accessible.
What is Trusted Tester?
A Trusted Tester is someone who has passed the training program (with 100% score), the practice exam and the final exam with a 90% score and can be relied upon to provide audits that match other Trusted Testers.
Trusted Tester Training Program
The training program is online. It is estimated to take around 80 hours. Each component is made up of a written lecture and a video demonstrating that component of accessibility. Once you’ve worked through that content, you will have to complete an incremental practice test, where you’re given a page to evaluate.
You’ll follow the testing steps and it grades you. You need to get 100% on the incremental test. You have 5 tries for each incremental test. One interesting part of this is that once you attempt testing again, the page is different. It looks the same, but it’s not!
Once you’ve completed the introductory courses you’ll get into the specific lessons. Once you’ve completed the testing-specific lessons (there are 20 of them), you’ll be brought to the Practice and Final Exam.
Practice and Final Exam Experience
The Practice and Final Exam are very similar. Each one gives you 3 pages to evaluate. You need to evaluate each page against all of the criteria, just like you would in real life. You get 3 attempts to score 90%. After your first attempt, anything you got wrong you need to re-test, but again the page will look different.
You can repeat the practice exam as much as you need if you get less than 90% on your 3 attempts. Luckily I got 92% on the practice exam so it unlocked the final exam.
The Final Exam is a new set of 3 pages, and it took me 6 hours to complete. Wow! But I managed a 95% and became a DHS Trusted Tester.
- WCAG 2: https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/
- Trusted Tester Standard: https://section508coordinators.github.io/TrustedTester/
- ANDI, the testing tool: https://www.ssa.gov/accessibility/andi/help/install.html
I recommend the Trusted Tester program for anyone interested in getting into accessibility.