Recent news regarding web accessibility commonly focuses on individuals with disabilities as customers and/or consumers. This makes sense—regulations are in place for businesses (Title III of the ADA and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation act, for example) to make their online presence accessible to the general public, and failing to do so leaves them liable to legal repercussions (see our previous National Federation of the Blind v. Target Corporation post here). An often-ignored aspect of web accessibility, though, relates to the employment of individuals with disabilities. This includes advertising job posts, applications, training, and retaining qualified individuals with disabilities.

An organization’s Human Resources (HR) department is responsible for the finding, screening, recruiting and training of job applicants, among many other tasks.  According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency that administers and enforces laws against workplace discrimination, it is forbidden for an employer to discriminate against a job candidate on the basis of disability. The EEOC’s rules cover private employers, state/local government employers, federal government employers, and employment agencies (certain exceptions exist and can be found here). These regulations impact job advertisements, recruitment, applications & hiring, and job assignments, among other things. Thus, the ruling exists for making job postings accessible, but is it realistically a worthwhile investment? Are people turning to the Internet to look for job postings?

According to the Pew Research Center, 54% of Americans use the Internet to search for job opening, and nearly 45% apply for jobs online. This figure has more than doubled since 2005, when only 26% of Americans researched job opening online. Social media is also becoming an important avenue for job searches. According to statistics from online employment website, Glassdoor, 79% of job seekers use social media in their job search, with this figure increasing to 86% for job seekers who are in the first 10 years of their careers.

Trends indicate that the Internet (and social media in particular) is the hiring tool of the future. Businesses need to ensure that their hiring practices and efforts are accessible to individuals with disabilities. Organizations that help leverage disability inclusion in the workplace already exist. The US Business Leadership Network, for example, is a national nonprofit that connects businesses and people with disabilities, and offers advice to businesses on how to engage in good corporate citizenship through disability inclusion.

With the Internet becoming a crucial tool among job applicants, and rules already in place against discriminatory hiring practices, the need for web accessibility in HR exists. Qualified individuals with disabilities certainly exist; the question is whether an organization makes itself open to such applicants.