The Importance of Online Accessibility to Organizations

Diversity, equity and inclusion are not just buzzwords — they have the potential to transform workplaces, improve productivity and create a new candidate experience. One area that is often overlooked in the pursuit of DE&I is online accessibility.

Considering how much of our lives we spend online today, anyone who can’t easily access this world is at an immediate disadvantage. Therefore, online accessibility should be a basic human right. Unfortunately, there remain groups for whom accessibility of materials online is not assured, including those with a temporary, life-long or age-related disability, learning disabilities, cognitive problems, vision issues or language barriers. A lack of online access has a big impact on real life, whether that relates to paying bills or getting a job. Acknowledging this issue is an important start for organizations looking to recruit in a truly diverse and inclusive way.

Web accessibility is fundamental to the goal of a more diverse and inclusive workforce. It’s even more important today as recruitment has shifted considerably into the digital space, which is now where most organizations do their hiring, from discovering candidates to onboarding and interviews. A digital hiring journey has become a must since Covid-19, which has exacerbated the disability gap in recruitment.

The disability gap in recruitment. People with disabilities struggle in the recruitment process, especially when it is a largely digital experience. Only a third of job seekers think that recruiters and employers currently provide accessible job applications. This could be why disabled job seekers apply for 60% more jobs and almost 40% of disabled applicants feel anxious about the process because they think that their application will be instantly dismissed due to their disability. Inaccessible websites are making the disability gap worse in recruitment — 71% of users will leave a site they find hard to use and yet 98% of home pages still don’t comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

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The benefits of a diverse talent pool. A diverse talent pool provides a richer and more innovative workforce for any business. Neurodiverse employees, for example, are often creative and strategic thinkers and a more diverse team broadens out perspectives to create room for more innovation and ideas generation. Being firm about equal opportunities creates a positive culture in the workplace, can boost morale and show customers how committed the business is. Plus, a more diverse workforce is able to accommodate a more diverse customer base and there is increasing evidence of links between better inclusion and greater profitability.

How can organizations support people online? There is no doubt that many organizations avoid web accessibility and inclusion issues, fearing that this will be expensive to implement. However, it’s important to note that the actual time and cost involved in implementing accessibility changes is fairly low. Beyond that, employers stand to gain in the long run — data has shown that employees with disabilities tend to stay with their employer longer and are likely to take less time off during their contract.

Implementing change means rethinking the internal view of candidates and employees with disabilities and looking at the ways an existing recruitment process may be creating obstacles. There are three key ways in which companies can support people online:

  1. Compliance. Ensuring that an online presence complies with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
  2. More inclusive web design. Factors to consider here include a content management system that is designed to support accessibility, using alt text for all images, using headings to structure content, ensuring online forms are accessible, giving descriptive names to all links.
  3. Assistive technology. For example, Recite Me has created a toolbar that enables users to customize and change colors and font sizes, apply a screen mask to color tint and block visual clutter and access text to speech functions in 35 languages — among many other things.

Web accessibility needs to be a priority for organizations focused on a genuinely inclusive and diverse workforce. Not only would it help lift barriers to obtaining information and taking action — but it would enable organizations to truly optimize recruitment. With so many advantages to having a more diverse and inclusive workforce, it makes sense to take all necessary steps to invest in accessibility from the start.

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Charlotte Gurney
Charlotte Gurney is vice president and global director of marketing at Volt. She can be reached at charlotte.gurney (at) (dot) com.

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