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Trusted Web Tester certification — what is it and is it worth your time?

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From February you can find a new accessibility certificate on my LinkedIn profile — the DHS Trusted Tester certification. It proves I finished and passed the final exam of the accessibility course conducted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s Customer Experience Directorate. And since then many people have reached out to me to ask about it, an exam, learning materials, etc. That’s why I decided to write an article and summarize my experiences with it. Hope it will help you decide if you also want to go this path.

What DHS Trusted Tester Process is?

Section 508 Trusted Conformance program was created by the American Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s Customer Experience Directorate (CXD), formerly known as the Office of Accessible Systems & Technology (OAST). It’s a try to introduce a standardized process of testing web pages according to Section 508 — accessibility law based on WCAG. From the future Trusted Tester side, the process is combined training, a mock exam, and the final exam. What is worth mentioning — the training and certification are:

  • free — which is not so common in the tech world,
  • remote — all you need is a stable internet connection,
  • flexible — you can start it whenever you want and you have unlimited time to finish the training.

To start, you must visit the official page and register for the program. You don’t need prior knowledge about accessibility before joining the program, however, it requires basic knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Graphic showing that shortcut a11y was created by taking the first and the last letter of the word accessibility and counting the remaining letters (11)

Sometimes we use shortcut a11y when talking about accessibility — here you can see why!


That’s the longest part of the course. You start with some theory about web accessibility, legal requirements, and the reasoning behind why it’s so important. Each lesson includes a short quiz at the end, which you must pass to proceed to the next chapter. Following that, you continue into more practical lessons, which are the most beneficial part of the course. Here, you’ll receive concise information about each aspect to test, the process of what and how to test, and how to report findings. Additionally, you’ll encounter examples of non-compliant, compliant, and failing webpages in this regard. To advance to the next chapter, you must test the demo page against a given aspect (test cases are randomized to prevent simple guessing).


Let’s be honest — no one enjoys exams. And I hoped that after completing my Masters, I wouldn’t have to stress again 😅 However, this exam isn’t so bad — you can take it from the comfort of your home, wrapped in your lucky blanket with your favorite tea in hand. It’s an open-book exam, so you can use any notes and materials you want (though without assistance from others, of course). The exam is practical, and this format makes a lot of sense — you’re given a webpage and tasked with conducting an audit of it. To receive the link for the real exam, you must first pass a mock exam, which is very similar to the final one but on a different webpage. Once you pass the mock exam, you should send an email and await the link for the actual exam. Upon accessing the exam page, you have three days and three attempts to complete it. You need to score at least 90%, but with subsequent attempts, you only need to review the criteria you marked incorrectly in previous attempts. The page is randomized for each attempt, so even if it appears the same or similar, you must evaluate it carefully each time. What surprised me the most was the time I needed to prepare — official instructions recommend allocating six hours for the first pass 😲 I managed it in about three hours, but it took much longer than I expected. So it’s good to be prepared for that. All in all, I think this format is quite good — it focuses on practical aspects and doesn’t require memorizing useless information (yes, I like open-book exams). Since the course and certificate are free, you can try it without consequences.


When you complete the entire process, there’s one more thing to do — receive your certificate and share it with the world (including potential employers). In my case, this part unfortunately took quite some time — contacting the certification organizers was quite challenging. Fortunately, after a few emails and phone calls, I managed to obtain it.

Certificate issued by Department of Homeland Security confirming that Dominika Zając completed Trusted Tester for Web on Windows

Each DHS Trusted Tester receives a certificate similar to mine

The certificate you receive is valid with no expiration date. You’ll receive it in online form via email with a unique number — you can use it to verify that you are a Trusted Tester and to sign test reports conducted by you (validating that they were conducted by a person with the mentioned certification). Of course, you can also print it and hang it on the fridge — to remind yourself that you did a great job during the 70+ hours of training and the challenging exam! After receiving this diploma, you should be proud of yourself!

Do I recommend it?

After all that information there is still one question that needs to be answered — do I recommend passing this certification? The answer is not simple — it depends. If you are a QA specialist, accessibility passionate, or looking for a way to improve your skills in this area, then definitely can recommend it to you. The same if you are a front-end developer looking for a way to enhance your CV or want to understand accessibility certifications. However, this course is not the best if you are looking for info not only on what to test but also how to implement it correctly. We still don’t have clear and solid standards in web accessibility and this course does not define coding standards either (as it’s a program for testers). On the other hand, even if I am really interested in accessibility it helped me organize my thoughts and knowledge so I found it useful and will return to testing materials when in doubt. So, the decision is yours but if you have some spare time — give it a try!

Let’s make the Internet a better, more accessible world where everyone feels welcome!

PS. If you like this article or found it useful, please, leave some comments below or share it with your friends. Thanks in advance!

Top comments (2)

pedrosmasson profile image
Pedro Masson

Thanks for the article dude, it was really insightful! I'm a software engineer still trying to figure out what I like in the tech world, and to become a QA is one of the possibilities that I like the most.

Do you think this would be a great start for my quality assurance studies? Or would you start with something more basic and noob friendly?

domizajac profile image
Dominika Zając (she/her) 🇵🇱

Hi Pedro, of you know basics of HTML, CSS and JavaScript this certificate may be an interesting item in CV to stand out from the crowd