People with disabilities sometimes encounter unnecessary barriers that aren’t faced by people without disabilities in both their personal and professional lives. In too many instances, these obstacles have made it more difficult for many people with vision, hearing, motor, and cognitive disabilities from seeking and obtaining gainful employment.
In 2018, people with disabilities in the U.S. had an unemployment rate of 8%, compared with the national average of 3.7%. What’s more, just 19% of people with a disability are employed, versus 66 percent of those without a disability.
Discrimination by employers, both intentional and unintentional, is a contributor to this unemployment gap. In fact, before they even get to the job interview, applicants with disabilities can encounter difficulties at the very start of the hiring process: a company’s career website.
In a survey by the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT), 46% of people with disabilities said their last experience applying for a job online was "difficult to impossible." A full 9 percent of respondents were unable to submit their application entirely due to accessibility challenges.
Accessibility for career websites isn’t just a “nice to have” — it’s a legal obligation and an essential part of keeping your business competitive.
Why you have to make your career website accessible
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is the most important piece of disability-related legislation in the United States. The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in fields such as employment, education, public transportation, and all services that are open to the general public.
Title I of the ADA prevents disability-based discrimination on the part of private employers, state and local governments, job agencies, and labor unions. This explicitly includes factors such as:
- Job applications
- Hiring, promotion, and firing
- Employee compensation
- Job training
More specifically, ADA Title I defines discrimination as “limiting, segregating, or classifying a job applicant or employee in a way that adversely affects [their] opportunities or status.”
It’s not hard, then, to see how ADA Title I applies to career websites as well. While the ADA does not explicitly address the question of websites, a growing body of case law has supported the interpretation that websites are a virtual extension of an organization’s physical presence.
The number of ADA website lawsuits has risen dramatically in the past few years alone, from 800 in 2017 to over 2,200 in 2018. If your career website is not accessible to people with disabilities, you too face the risk of a time-consuming and potentially expensive lawsuit.
With at least 45% of U.S. adults using the internet to apply for jobs, and many more searching for jobs and using information they find online in their job hunt, the lack of accessibility for career websites constitutes a real and substantial barrier for applicants with disabilities. Employers and job agencies need to ensure that their online careers portal is accessible — just as much as they do with their offline job application process.
Why you want to make your career website accessible
Beyond the legal requirements, there are several social and economic reasons to make your career website accessible for people with disabilities. Here are four of them.
1. Attracting top talent
Employees with disabilities can be just as competent and capable as those without disabilities, and it's unfortunate that in 2019 this still has to be stated. However, failing to make your career website accessible will prevent or dissuade many job seekers with disabilities from applying. When everyone can navigate your careers portal, your applicant pool will be as broad as possible, helping you hire top talent.
2. Improving company performance
has economic benefits for both employers and employees. Research from Accenture has shown that businesses who embrace disability awareness have significantly higher revenue, net income, and economic profit margins than their competitors. The same study also revealed that U.S. GDP could rise by up to $25 billion if more people with disabilities joined the workforce.
3. Preventing discrimination
People with disabilities are significantly underemployed, even when looking across the same education levels. For people with a bachelor's degree or higher, people with a disability are still unemployed at more than double the rate. Making career websites accessible is a major step toward ending this discrimination. If social responsibility is an important part of your company’s mission, encouraging job applications from people with disabilities is an excellent way to demonstrate it.
Related: Labor Day and Accessibility: Celebrate and Empower All Workers
4. Supporting diversity
84% of the largest companies in the U.S. have a diversity and inclusion statement that specifically mentions disability. Unless you put this into practice with an accessible career website, however, it's hard to actually achieve diversity and inclusion. Having applicants and employees with disabilities helps foster a more diverse workplace and create social change.
How to make your career websites accessible to people with disabilities
Despite the clear benefits of accessibility, far too many companies are still falling short. According to one study, 89% of Fortune 100 career websites fail to meet accessibility standards.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be one of them. Here are a few quick tips to improve the accessibility of your career website:
- Transcripts and closed captions: Your career site may have videos or audio files about the experience of working for your company. This content should be accompanied by closed captions and transcripts.
- Alt text: Photos and other non-decorative images need alternative text that describes the contents of the image. This helps people who use assistive technology such as screen readers.
- Color scheme: The color scheme of your website should have enough color contrast to be usable by applicants with low vision, color blindness, and really most everyone, as content with sufficient contrast is easier to read. In addition, color should not be the sole means of conveying information (for example, the use of the color red to mean “stop” or “incorrect”).
- Keyboard accessibility: Your website should support full keyboard accessibility. In other words, the site should be fully navigable using only the keyboard, without the use of a mouse.
- Timed content: Many people need extra time to navigate a website. If your career site has content that expires after a certain period of time, users should be able to adjust, extend, or turn off the time limit unless it is absolutely essential.
- Form fields: Form accessibility is a particularly important concern for career sites, where users will likely be submitting their information. The forms on your career website should have accessible labels, properly validate user input, and notify users about how to correct their mistakes.
Is your career website accessible?
Wondering whether your own careers website is accessible? You can get started with a free website scan to get an idea your compliance with the most popular standards. To learn more about website accessibility, follow our blog or get in touch with our team of accessibility experts.