Global Accessibility Awareness Day is designed to raise awareness and understanding of the more than 1 billion people who live and work with disabilities. Despite the steps that have been taken to foster more inclusive work environments and experiences, there is still progress to be made.
This year it's all about embracing a fundamental shift in the way we approach and design an accessible experience for all talent. For HR teams, one of the most critical places to consider accessible design is on the career site and other digital content, such as emails, videos, and social media posts. But accessibility requires more than just claiming your company is committed; it requires a team that's dedicated to delivering digital experiences that all candidates and employees can use and navigate.
Companies that prioritize digital accessibility are not only designing and coding in a way that eliminates barriers that prevent people with disabilities from fully accessing the site — they’re building experiences that are inclusive to everyone, with and without a disability.
Accessibility isn’t just the law — it affirms that all people get equal access to the right job. As a result, accessibility can make or break your candidate experience; and ultimately, your employer brand.
Here are a few essential best practices to get started and ensure you’re compliant:
1. Follow Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is a set of guidelines for digital accessibility. Established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), these standards cover all of the details needed to make our sites the best for everyone.
While you can view the full WCAG 2.1 guidelines here, some of the most common include:
- Adding alt-text for any images, forms, buttons, and non-text content
- Including closed captions and/or transcripts for video or audio
- Ensuring all functionality is available from a keyboard
- Making it easy for users to view and listen to content
When it comes to careers sites, the most commonly-failed WCAG guidelines are color contrasting, alt text for images, empty links, and inputs for forms.
Did you know…? Our Fortune 100 career site accessibility study revealed that 89 of companies failed at least one WCAG 2.0 standard.
2. Use Text with Sufficient Color Contrast
Reading becomes more difficult when the text poorly contrasts with the background; infact, it can almost blend in. With good color contrast, career sites can be easier for everyone to use. To ensure accessibility of your career site, use foreground text colors that have sufficient contrast to their background.
The color on top of backdrops or images must be a ratio of at least 4.5 to 1 for smaller text and 3 to 1 for larger text. This excludes large headings, incidental text, and logos.
A black-on-white approach, despite what people might assume, is not the best contrast out there. Stark contrast can actually look blurred or appear to move for some readers with disabilities such as certain color blindness, Irlen Syndrome, or dyslexia. Experts advise using an off-white background rather than a bright white one, and avoiding red on green, as red-green color blindness is most common.
To ensure you’re meeting these guidelines, check out the following online tools:
- Extract the color value from any website using Colorzilla
- Test contrast ratios for page text elements on WebAIM
3. Add Text Alternatives to Images and Links
Alt text provides significant and essential information about the graphic, non-text content on your page. It helps increase search engine optimization (SEO) and page visibility, and can help users clarify the intention and content being shown.
For any links on the page, be sure to clearly identify the target of each link within the copy. To easily read a web page, screen readers will often pull out a list of links to determine the content and where to go. But if the link text is vague (e.g. “Click here”), the user will not have enough information about where the link will send them. To avoid this issue, link and navigation text should specifically describe where it’s going.
Pro Tip: Phenom's CMS delivers warnings to users if an image is missing these essential attributes and provides feedback on page-level accessibility, ultimately allowing them to construct more inclusive digital spaces.
4. Add Accessibility to Online Forms
Forms are essential for collecting information about job seekers, so it's important they're optimized for accessibility.
To improve the experience, use autocomplete and pre-fill functionality to simplify the process of adding information. Your forms should also have unique labels that describe the user details that are required, such as “First Name” and “Last Name” to ensure screen readers can read your labels and forms accurately.
General accessibility guidelines, according to the U.S. Web Design System (USWDS) are:
- Customize each template
- Display form controls in the same order in HTML as they appear on your screen
- Visibly align validation messages with the input fields
- Use proper markup so users of screen readers can more easily navigate the form
- Use a legend for each fieldset
- Arrange and keep your online forms in simple, vertical layouts
5. Adhere to ADA Standards
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) outlines specific sets of accessibility standards that are set out in law. ADA guidelines go beyond just web accessibility and include rules for the built environment and physical products. It uses WCAG 2.0 AA as its standard and applies to every business in the U.S.
The ADA is divided into 5 titles that fall under the following categories:
- Employment (Title I): Employers are required to allow for and give "reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees with disabilities on the basis of disability in all aspects of employment." according to the Job Accommodations Network. This includes restructuring roles, adding accessibility to work sites and desks as needed, altering work schedules, providing interpreters and modifying equipment and policies. Title 1 also prohibits employers from asking candidates and employees about a disability during the interview process.
- Public Services (Title II) Public services cannot deny services to people with disabilities, or deny participation in programs or activities. Public transportation must also be accessible.
- Public Accommodations (Title III): All new construction and modifications that are made to public facilities such as restaurants, hotels, and grocery stores, must be accessible to people with disabilities.
- Telecommunications (Title IV): Companies that offer telephone services to the public must have a telephone relay service to those who use telecommunication devices for the deaf.
- Miscellaneous (Title V): Coercing, threatening, or retaliating against people with disabilities is prohibited. This also applies to people who aid those with a disability.
Digital accessibility throughout the talent experience is a critical component of equity. As pandemic restrictions lift and office doors reopen, accommodation of everyone — every candidate and employee — must not be neglected. In the end, a digitally accessible talent experience is at it best when each and every individual can understand, navigate, and use all features to support their job search efforts or their team.