Parker BettisDecember 03, 2019
Topics: Candidate Experience

Prioritizing Online Accessibility For Career Sites

Today is National Disability Day—a day to help everyone become more compassionate and understanding of the challenges faced by people with disabilities. To that end, we'd like to shed more light on a particularly poignant topic: online accessibility and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) compliance, specifically as it applies to the field of HR and finding a job.

The Importance of Accessible Career Sites

Why does digital accessibility matter? Because people are going online for everything today. Whether it's to shop, learn, pay bills, or search for a job, there's a migration away from traditional brick-and-mortar establishments. As a result, websites—including career sites—must account for users of all abilities. But many do not, as evidenced in our recent study analyzing Fortune 100 career sites based on six of the most common WCAG 2.0 standards. The result? Billions of people are being left behind, unable to find job opportunities and grow their careers.

Not only is equal access the right thing to do, there's also a particular legal climate around digital compliance that puts many companies at risk. In addition to sharing the empathy already expressed by industry-leading organizations, it's important to mitigate liability and eliminate barriers to accessibility to deliver the best candidate and employee experiences.

Clarifying Compliance vs. Conformance

While awareness is essential, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. There's often ambiguity around what an organization must do to comply with digital accessibility. To understand this more, companies can start by defining a roadmap for their accessibility initiatives. The first step is understanding the difference between compliance and conformance.

The second a company does something to address the accessibility shortcomings of their website is the second they are considered compliant—they are complying with standards of anti-discrimination.

The path to accessibility, however, is a company’s effort to conform to WCAG 2.0 standards. This can take weeks or months depending on the depth and breadth of the company’s digital footprint.

It’s also important to point out that conforming to WCAG standards doesn’t necessarily equate to being 100% accessible. Reaching that level of accessibility is improbable: websites change and are updated, and standards evolve to keep pace with users and use cases.

To proactively address such limitations, companies can add an Accessibility Statement page to their sites that explains the efforts and standards the company hopes to achieve. A statement, such as the one below, can also be a jumping off point for businesses to lay out a long-term, sustainable plan to attain and maintain conformance with best practices.

Accessibility Statement screenshot

Creating Meaningful Change

Many companies did not forecast the digital accessibility push that recent, highly publicized lawsuits helped initiate. Now, with little budget and less know-how, companies could use a helping hand.

With a team of experts and an unwavering commitment to improving the talent experience, we recently launched Phenom Access—free, out-of-the-box accessibility tools to assist teams that want to remove accessibility barriers on their career sites and reach more job seekers.

Phenom Access includes:

  1. Accessible Canvases. The general template, layout, and markup of our templates are optimized to be more compatible with screen readers (a tool used by many people with disabilities who are visually impaired, have low-vision, or some other disability).

  1. Accessible Widgets. The widgets that our customers drag and drop to their sites are now accessible out of the box. The content within these widgets should be added with best practices in mind.

  1. CMS Warnings. Triggers are being developed so that as users add content within the CMS, they will receive warnings related to accessibility. For example, if an image is added without alt-text and the user attempts to save that configuration, they will receive a real-time warning to review and/or fix the issue.

And this is only the beginning. To further help raise accessibility awareness, we made a $1 donation to Dreamscape Foundation for each of our booth visitors at this year’s HR Technology Conference. We totaled over $500 and plan to match this amount. Dreamscape Foundation uses the legal framework of the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure people with disabilities are provided the tools and resources needed to meet their educational, employment, and independent living goals.

People with disabilities can add significant value and diversity to an organization, and they deserve the same opportunities as all job seekers. On this notable day, it’s important to understand the hurdles people with disabilities encounter as they navigate web environments, the duty companies have to remove these barriers, and the path to make digital inclusion a reality.

Join us for a SHRM-accredited webinar: Designing a WCAG 2.0 Compliant Career Site.

Want to achieve digital accessibility on your career site? Sign up for a demo today!

Parker Bettis

Parker is an Implementation Manager at Phenom People, and has spent several years working to optimize web environments in line with Web Accessibility Standards and Digital Accessibility Compliance.

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