The Who, What, And How Of Web Accessibility And Career Sites

Posted by Jillian Einck  |  November 16, 2021  |  Careers Sites

Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) strategies are being discussed more frequently as companies try to ensure their recruitment strategies are up to par. Today, more than ever, organizations are focused on providing opportunities to candidates of all gender identities, races, religions, disabilities, and ages -- taking meaningful steps to ensure that their companies represent a wide range of backgrounds.

Accessibility to jobs has traditionally challenged people with disabilities and continues to do so today. In 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 17.9 percent of people with disabilities were employed, down from 19.3 percent in 2019. Further, the unemployment rates for people with disabilities rose to 12.6 percent, the highest percentage in seven years.

The global pandemic is significantly responsible for shifts in employment. However, there are some bright spots. For instance, because of work from home (WFH) and social distancing protocols brought on by COVID, many organizations moved to virtual hiring processes, with 70 percent of talent professionals claiming that it will be the new standard.  

Additionally, the move to remote work arrangements during the pandemic has proven to companies that further accessibility is possible, especially with the stigma of working from home removed. As HR Dive reflects, remote work arrangements could impact the "compliance conversation about whether such arrangements could be considered reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act."

As Hannah Olson, the founder and CEO of Chronically Capable, said, "Going forward, there is a real opportunity for businesses across the country to take the lead in rolling out digital-first, remote workplace plans that help mitigate the risk of coronavirus, but also are inclusive of all Americans -- including those with disabilities and chronic illnesses."

Even with these improvements inadvertently created by the pandemic, employers can take additional steps to ensure the DEIB practices in their recruiting strategies are sufficient. Read on to learn more about making your career site more accessible for people with disabilities.

 

Why Should You Create Hiring Strategies for Candidates With Disabilities?

When it comes to job searches online, your career site often serves as an initial step in a potential candidate's application journey. Therefore, ensuring that your career site is accessible to all talent is crucial when recruiting quality candidates.

Recent studies indicate that talent professionals will play a more prominent role in DEIB strategies post-COVID, especially with 70 percent of job seekers asserting that they prefer to work for an organization demonstrating a DEIB commitment. Additionally, 77 percent of talent professionals believe that "diversity will be very important to the future of recruiting."

Not only are candidates demanding transparent DEIB strategies and holding employers accountable for these strategies, but employers can expose themselves to legal liability for not treating job candidates fairly. As talent professionals know, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act extends to job seekers, and by extension, to employers career websites.

For instance, private businesses with 15 or more employees (and all state and local governmental entities) are legally required to provide reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, such as ensuring that the interview location is accessible, providing a sign language interpreter, meeting in a quiet location, or interviewing virtually.

Additionally, numerous states, such as Arizona, California, Louisiana, Texas, and Virginia, have issued regulatory guidance or passed legislation, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Initially published in 2008, these Guidelines have been developed in cooperation with individuals and organizations worldwide, "with a goal of providing a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally."

No longer is diversity a nice-to-have or feel-good initiative. Instead, it's a "business-critical imperative – one that recruiting can lead."

 

Who Is Affected by Web Accessibility?

Web accessibility ensures that no barriers exist regarding 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: 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: Candidates who cannot use a mouse, live with limited fine motor control, or demonstrate a 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 also include 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?

Employers can design an accessible career site in several ways. When looking at the list of disabilities to consider, your focus on accessibility should be all-encompassing:

  • The site's coding
  • The content's language and appearance
  • The site's 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 organization can dedicate resources to a professional web accessibility audit.

Continue reading to find out how you can move towards becoming web accessible -- with or without a specialized accessibility vendor.

 

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 substance dependent on the page's visual design.
  • All functionality on your site should be available via a keyboard in addition to a mouse or mobile scroll.
  • Navigation should be accessible, allowing 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 predictably, with no sudden changes or surprises.
  • Any forms should include help functionality and text.
  • Always make sure that you're coding your site to accommodate a wide range of devices (desktop, laptop, tablet, and mobile).

 

Content

  • Audio and video should be captioned while having 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 contrasting colors are used for text and backgrounds. In addition, links should always be clearly labeled and visually apparent.
  • Your site's visitors must be able 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 broad audience. Keep in mind the average audience that you want to visit your career site, ensuring that you're writing for them -- not just within the content itself but within language and comprehension of the content as well.
  • 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 details about any images to the user. If you're using an image with 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.

Also, don't forget about technology. Incorporate online meeting platforms, such as Zoom, into your career site for virtual interviews or onboarding activities. Don't forget to enable accessibility features such as closed captioning. Digital whiteboards and Kanban boards will help you and applicants stay organized throughout the recruitment process. In addition, in-game accommodations can help employers "evaluate candidates on the basis of their choice throughout the game," unlike traditional psychometric testing techniques.

 

How Does an Accessible Career Site Benefit You?

As we recover from the global pandemic, savvy employers will decide how to reposition themselves in this new normal. Making your career site accessible is one way to not only reposition yourself but help you reap additional benefits as we move squarely into the future of work.

According to McKinsey, "when companies invest in diversity and inclusion, they are in a better position to create more adaptive, effective teams and more likely to recognize diversity as a competitive advantage." Let's see how:

  • Widens the Talent Pool, Attracting Better Talent: Having an accessible career website expands your search for talent, widening the talent pool with more diverse candidates, including people with disabilities.
  • Boosts Innovation and Creativity: McKinsey notes that "diversity brings multiple perspectives to bear on problems, thereby boosting the odds of more creative solutions." In addition, the Harvard Business Review found, in a recent study, that "there was a statistically significant relationship between diversity and innovation outcomes in all eight countries examined."
  • Improves Team and Business Outcomes:  According to HR guru Josh Bersin, "companies that embrace diversity and inclusion in all aspects of their business statistically outperform their peers." Specifically, Gartner found revealed that "inclusive teams unlock diversity benefits by improving team performance by up to 30% in high diversity environments." Your career website contributes to this outperformance, especially serving as a gateway to your organization's recruitment.
  • Increases Your Company's Revenue: If you increase your DEIB strategies, including making your career site more accessible, you are "now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability." According to Boston Consulting Group (BCG), "companies that reported above-average diversity on their management teams also reported innovation revenue that was 19 percentage points higher than that of companies with below-average leadership diversity -- 45% of total revenue versus just 26%." Also, McKinsey found that "the relationship between diversity on executive teams and the likelihood of financial outperformance has strengthened over time."

 

How Can You Get Started on Planning and Testing Your Career Site's Accessibility?

No doubt, boosting your DEIB efforts can positively impact your organization. But how can you get started on planning and testing your career site's accessibility? Luckily, numerous tools are 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, reporting back any issues with the accessibility within the coding structure
  • Simulation tools that will give you a better understanding of how individuals with disabilities experience your site

If you'd like to learn even more about accessibility related to the recruitment and hiring process, check out AbilityJobs. AbilityJobs is a job board that exclusively focuses 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 recruiting, hiring, and employing people with disabilities.

 

Moving Forward

In a recent interview with Australia's SmartCompany, leadership and HR influencer Brene Brown stated that:

"Especially right now, when we're so anxious and there's so much vulnerability and uncertainty, we need to do more than diversity and equity and inclusion. We need to create real belonging in our culture. . . . Our philosophy on D&I is rooted in two themes: connection and belonging [hence, DEIB]. These elements must go hand-in-hand in the workplace in order to truly make an impact."

Ensuring that companies of all sizes are open to all applicants, ensures that they can foster a work environment that spotlights diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging -- today and into the future.

 

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Are you looking to succeed with your DEIB strategies but don't know where to start? We'd love to help. Contact Recruitics today to learn more! 

Posted by Jillian Einck

Jillian Einck

Jillian Einck is VP of Employer Brand at Recruitics. She has seven years of experience in the world of branding, marketing communications, and design. From the world of private clubs, to healthcare, to now recruitment marketing, she has effectively utilized her obsessive attention to detail by channeling it into creative and successful marketing campaigns across a variety of platforms and communications channels. Jillian earned her Bachelors of Arts from San Francisco State University in Theatre Arts in 2006. She spends her free time with her husband and young daughter, reading, watching classic movies, and baking elaborate desserts that she frequently finishes eating in a single sitting.

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