Diversity and inclusion is a hot topic in the employment space. Companies are focused now, more than ever, on providing opportunities to candidates of all gender identities, races, religions, disabilities, and age, and actually making an active effort to ensure that their company is representative of a wide range of backgrounds. Equal Opportunity Employers (EOE) label themselves as such in their pledge to not engage in discrimination against employees or candidates. However, many of these employers who are committed to hiring the best and most diverse talent can sometimes fall short when it comes to accessibility for disabled candidates.
While national unemployment is hovering at a record low of 3.8%, unemployment among people with disabilities is nearly two and a half times that rate, last reported at 9.2%. While this rate has decreased in step with general unemployment in recent months, it is still a good deal harder for people with disabilities to find gainful employment. A big part of that struggle is due to accessibility when it comes to online job searching and applications.
When it comes to job search online, your career site is oftentimes one of the main gateways in a potential candidate’s journey to applying. According to a survey conducted by the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT), of the 427 respondents with disabilities, 46% rated their last experience applying for a job online as “difficult to impossible.” Of those, 24% required assistance to complete the application and 9% were unable to complete the application entirely. Considering that nearly one in five Americans live with a disability, if your career site isn’t accessible to them, you could potentially be losing out on qualified talent. Not only that, you could open yourself up to legal risk, as website and mobile application accessibility are covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
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WHO IS AFFECTED BY AND BENEFITS FROM WEB ACCESSIBILITY?
Web accessibility is the practice of safeguarding to ensure there are no barriers to interaction with, or access to, websites by people with disabilities. When implemented correctly, all users, regardless of disability, should have equal access to both information and functionality.
There are four main categories of access you should consider when planning your career site:
- Visual Access — These are candidates who may be blind or have low vision, or candidates with color blindness.
- Audial Access — Candidates who are deaf or hard of hearing
- Motor Ability — These are candidates who for whatever reason are unable to use a mouse, live with limited fine motor control, or slow motor response time.
- Cognitive Ability — This refers to candidates who may live with a range of cognitive disabilities including learning disabilities, distractibility, impaired memory functions, and inability to focus on or retain large amounts of information.
Other access points to consider in addition to these are candidates who may live with photo epilepsy (seizure disorder triggered by visual stimuli) and candidates with age-related processes and impairments.
WHAT MAKES A CAREER SITE ACCESSIBLE?
There are a number of factors to consider when creating an accessible career site. When looking at the list of disabilities to consider, your focus on accessibility should be all-encompassing: the way the site is coded, the way the content is written, and the forms, images, and media that are used. Web accessibility is a complex practice, and many companies may hire an accessibility development expert or outsource to a vendor who specializes in accessibility guidelines. However, not every company has the resources for that. But there are still ways you can move towards becoming web-accessible.
Coding and Site Structure
- Your career site should be coded 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 the way you code media like images and videos, as well as the structure of the markup, page headings, and navigation.
- Your content should be adaptable across all devices, without losing its flow and meaning. This means using standards-compliant code in your structure and not making content meaning dependent on the visual structure of the page.
- All functionality on your site 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. Links and navigation should always be coded in the same structure as they’re presented.
- Your site should always behave in a way that’s predictable, with no sudden changes or surprises.
- Any forms should include help functionality and text.
- Always make sure that you are coding your site to accommodate a wide range of devices (desktop, laptop, tablet, and mobile).
- Audio and video should be captioned and/or have a transcript available for candidates with access issues.
- Content should always be distinguishable (easy to see, read, or hear). You can do this by ensuring 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.
- It should always be possible for the visitor of your site to consume content at their own pace; for example, video content should always have pause and rewind buttons, rotating displays of content should have user-controlled functionality, and text shouldn’t disappear after a period of time.
- Your content should always be easy to read and appropriate for a wide audience. Keep in mind the average audience that you want to visit your career site, and be sure that you are writing for them — not just within the content itself, but the language and comprehension of the content as well.
- In order to accommodate individuals with photo epilepsy, your career site shouldn’t contain any media or content that flashes more than three times in any one second (More than that can trigger seizures).
- Images and graphics on your site should always have ALT-text attributes to allow screen readers to communicate to the user what the image is of. If you’re using an image that has a text overlay, be sure to include that text within the ALT attributes of the image so that its message is being conveyed equally to individuals using screen readers.
HOW CAN YOU GET STARTED ON PLANNING AND TESTING YOUR CAREER SITE’S ACCESSIBILITY?
Luckily, there are a number of tools available online, both free and paid-for versions, that can assist you in your goal towards creating an accessible career site. Some of these tools 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 issues with the accessibility within the coding structure
- Simulation tools that will give you a better understanding of how your site is experienced by individuals with disabilities
If you’d like to learn even more about accessibility as it relates to the recruitment and hiring process, check out AbilityJobs. AbilityJobs is a job board focused exclusively on posting jobs from employers actively seeking to hire people with disabilities. It has an excellent resource center for employers looking to improve their processes and accommodations when it comes to recruiting, hiring, and employing people with disabilities.
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