The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed more than 30 years ago but significant barriers to employment remain for this segment of the population.
According to 2020 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, persons with disabilities are nearly three times as likely to be unemployed than those with no disabilities. The National Federation of the Blind reports that more than 70 percent of working-age adults with visual impairments are unemployed.
At least in part, these sobering facts may be attributed to obstacles in website access. Careers webpages are often where potential candidates come to learn about an organization’s job openings, mission, and culture. But if the site is not accessible to all people because of the way it is designed, then employers run the risk of losing out on exceptional talent, as well as alienating a large pool of candidates and being liable for discrimination.
Web accessibility is the practice of ensuring that there are no barriers to interaction with or access to websites by people with disabilities. It means that all users should have equal access to both information and functionality.
How accessible is your company’s career site?
If you haven’t given it much thought, now is the time to seriously consider this question and take steps to remove any barriers. Read on for some basics and best practices that will enhance your organization’s career site accessibility efforts.
What are the standards for website compliance?
A website is considered accessible when it is AA compliant, which means it meets the standards of the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA. Although these guidelines have not been formally adopted as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standard by federal agencies, they have been applied by most courts as the ADA standard.
How should companies begin the process?
This topic can seem overwhelming, but there are four main categories of access that should be considered when planning or improving your career site design:
- Visual Access: Individuals who may be blind or have low vision, or who have color blindness
- Audial Access: Those who are deaf or hard of hearing
- Motor Ability: These individuals are unable to use a mouse, live with limited fine motor control, or possess slow motor response time
- Cognitive Ability: This category encompasses a range of cognitive deficiencies, including learning disabilities, distractibility, impaired memory functions, and the inability to focus on or retain large amounts of information
Additionally, persons with photo epilepsy (seizure disorder triggered by visual stimuli) and those with age-related processes and impairments should also be taken into account.
What makes a career site accessible?
The list of disabilities that must be considered is vast, so your focus on accessibility should also be all-encompassing—the way the content is written, the way the site is coded, and the forms, images, and media that are used. Because web accessibility is such a complex practice, many companies choose to hire an accessibility development expert or utilize a vendor who specializes in accessibility guidelines. But even if your budget doesn’t allow for these external resources, there are still ways you can move toward becoming web-accessible.
Here are ten helpful pointers regarding site structure, design, and content:
- Code in a way that makes it possible for screen readers (commonly used by individuals with vision disabilities) to access and read its contents. This includes media like images and videos, as well as the structure of the markup, page headings, and navigation.
- The content should be adaptable across all devices, without losing its flow and meaning.
- All functionality should be available via a keyboard in addition to a mouse or mobile scroll.
- Navigation should be accessible, with the option for screen readers to skip repeated blocks of content, like navigation and footers.
- The site should always behave in a predictable manner, with no sudden changes or surprises.
- Accommodate a full range of devices, including desktop, laptop, tablet, and mobile.
- Audio and video should be captioned and/or have a transcript available for candidates with access issues.
- Content should be easy to see, read, or hear. Ensure that fonts are clear and sufficiently large, and that clear contrasting colors are used for text and backgrounds. Links should always be clearly labeled and visually obvious.
- Allow visitors to consume content at their own pace. Video content should always have pause and rewind buttons, and the text shouldn’t disappear after a period of time.
- Content should always be easy to read and appropriate for a wide audience. Think about the viewers you want to visit your career site and be sure that you are writing for them, including the language used.
There are plenty of tools available to help you.
If you are ready to get started on planning, testing, and improving your career site’s accessibility, a variety of free and paid online resources can guide you on your journey. They include:
- Testing tools that allow you to check contrast ratios for content and images
- Audit tools that will read your site and report back any accessibility issues within the coding structure
- Simulation tools that provide an understanding of how your site is experienced by individuals with disabilities
The transformation to digital equality can only happen if companies commit to change. It starts with adopting a proactive, empathetic mindset at the corporate level. As businesses publish content for potential candidates, it’s important to consider how job seekers will access and interact with it. When inclusive digital experiences are part of the plan and not an afterthought, they become ingrained in the process and foster diversity. Ultimately, this approach provides cost savings for businesses and optimized experiences for every job seeker.
The HR Team is here to provide valuable resources that can facilitate your career site accessibility efforts and help you attract top talent. Please contact our knowledgeable professionals to learn more.
About The HR Team: Founded in 1996, The HR Team is a Maryland-based human resources outsourcing firm committed to developing strategic, customized solutions that respond to the unique needs and cultures of organizations of all types and sizes. Available as a one-source alternative to an in-house HR department or on an à la carte project basis, the company’s flexible service models address the full spectrum of HR needs that many organizations struggle to address. The HR Team helps clients achieve their highest level of success by providing value-driven human resources services that leave them time to focus on what they do best: directing business growth and profitability. Headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, the firm serves all of Maryland, Washington, DC, and Virginia. To learn more about The HR Team, call 410.381.9700 or visit https://www.thehrteam.com/.