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How to create equal accessibility for all organizations online

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by Charlotte Gurney

We live so much of our lives online today that anyone who can’t easily access this world is immediately at a disadvantage. It’s easy for those who do have access to assume that everyone else benefits from this too but there remain groups for whom this isn’t the case, 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.

Recent changes in recruitment

Diversity and inclusion are not just buzzwords - they have the potential to transform workplaces, improve productivity and create a new candidate experience. 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 and this is now where most organizations do their hiring, from discovering candidates to onboarding and interviews. A digital hiring journey has become a must during the pandemic and this has exacerbated the disability gap in recruitment.

The disability gap in recruitment

Only a third of jobseekers think that recruiters and employers currently provide accessible job applications. This could be why disabled jobseekers 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 World Content Accessibility Guidelines.

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 companies support people online?

Many organizations avoid web accessibility and inclusion issues, fearing that this will be costly and expensive to implement. However, it’s important to note that the actual time and cost involved in implementing accessibility changes is fairly low. 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:

Compliance. Ensuring that an online presence complies with the World Content Accessibility Guidelines.

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.

Assistive technology. For example, Recite Me has created a toolbar that allows 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.

Recite Me

14.1 million people in the UK have a disability and many frequently come up against barriers and challenges when trying to apply for a job online. It’s also quite shocking to note that only 51% of applications from disabled people result in an interview. There are clearly issues here, which is why Recite Me has teamed up with APSCo to create a partnership to advise members on taking steps to create an inclusive candidate journey, as well as the toolbar mentioned above. Members will be able to access information, ideas and support so that online applications can be more inclusive, providing organizations with access to a broader range of candidates. Assistive technology - such as the Recite Me toolbar - provides support to those who struggle with web accessibility, helping organizations to improve their record on this. The technology makes it easier for website users to understand information and make applications through simple features, such as reading aloud or making font adjustments. So far, Recite Me has supported more than 1.8 million people and 8.5 million pages have been accessed barrier-free. 

Recite Me CEO and Founder Ross Linnett is one of Volt's panel speakers in their D,E&I Webinar Series for UK and Europe on; 'How to start on your Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Journey.' Click here to read more and register for our webinar, 16th June 2021.

Take aways

1. Web accessibility needs to be a priority for organizations focused on a genuinely inclusive and diverse workforce.

2. Accessible web design currently doesn’t feature for many organizations - 98% of home pages don’t comply with the World Content Accessibility Guidelines.

3. There is a significant disability gap in recruitment right now with only just over half of applications from disabled people making it to the interview stage and disabled jobseekers have to apply for 60% more jobs.

4. There are many advantages to a diverse talent pool, from access to more creative and strategic thinking to improved financial results.

5. Businesses need to improve basic web design and also employ assistive technology, such as the Recite Me toolbar here, to ensure true web accessibility.

Web accessibility is an issue for those who find websites contain barriers to obtaining information and taking action - but it’s also stopping organizations from truly optimizing recruitment. There are so many advantages to a more diverse and inclusive workforce today that it makes sense to take all necessary steps to invest in accessibility from the start.