Common Barriers to Accessibility in Online Job Applications

October 30, 2023
3 minutes

Online job application portals are the leading platforms facilitating the recruitment process for employers and job seekers. 

While online portals simplify the online job application process, common barriers prevent persons with disabilities from accessing and using the sites fully. These include design and technical issues that can significantly impact the user experience. 

Why Address Accessibility for Online Job Applications

Besides being the central hub for hiring activities within an organization, online job portals are where prospective candidates learn about an organization, view jobs, and send their applications. Despite a significant portion of the US workforce living with disabilities, most career websites do not consider these groups in their web development activities, limiting their access and participation, and missing out on a pool of talent. 

Addressing accessibility for online job applications is critical to avoid legal complications. For instance, a website accessibility audit will check if your organization complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), making online job application portals a legal necessity.  ADA prohibits discrimination of employees, and employers have to modify their recruitment procedures to ensure equal access for applicants.

One of the options employers have to ensure equal access is by providing alternative ways to the Internet for candidates to receive recruitment details, where an applicant’s disability may limit them on the computer. Alternatively, organizations can design webpages that meet the different neurological, sensory, and motor needs.

Common Barriers to Accessibility in Online Job Applications

While most people find technology convenient, this is not always the case for people with disabilities, hence the need to ensure unrestricted access without discrimination or bias. The best place to start is to consider your audience's characteristics and ensure they can access the information you give online.

Here are some common barriers to accessibility in online job applications:

Timeout Restrictions 

Generally, persons with disabilities will take more time completing tasks online, and setting timeout restrictions prevents them from completing these tasks comfortably. 

Tip: While timeouts are important in some instances, giving your audience time to extend, adjust, or turn off these limits is advisable, and where the system times them out, ensure data is auto-saving so that they can resume their application from where they left.

Lack of Color Contrast

Occasionally, websites use low-contrast fonts for aesthetic purposes, and while they accomplish this goal, they limit persons with visual impairments. 

Tip: Change your text colors to one that stands out from the background to make it easy for everyone.  

Site Navigation Issues

Job application portals contain several sections that change the page's overall structure, making it challenging for users with neurocognitive differences or disabilities to navigate. 

Tip: Designers can place hyperlinks and controls in the same spot to improve navigation.

Lack of Keyboard-Only Navigation

While some people prefer using the mouse, others have limitations, hence the need to factor in operability through a keyboard for accessible web designs. While doing this, retain the order of components on navigation menus and icons such as arrows. The goal is to make your website easy to focus on with a keyboard so that your applicants can select their options using arrow keys and open links.

Tip: Another alternative to simplifying keyboard navigation is keyboard shortcuts. Through these shortcuts, you can store form elements, enabling you to reach certain areas faster and carry functions faster.

Inaccessible Form Fields

Form accessibility requires proper labeling, allowing assistive technology to recognize the controls and communicate with users. Inaccurate association with the labels will affect how well the screen readers connect to the elements. This, in turn, will make the readers have difficulty understanding the form and fill them inaccurately. The description labels are different, and knowing whether your HTML is visible to everyone is advisable.

An asterisk is a common symbol for mandatory fields; pointing this out at the beginning of the form is advisable. Alternatively, display the mandatory fields in a shading or different color, which is still not accessible for everyone. 

Tip: For screen readers to recognize your forms, consider the ARIA requirement, an HTML attribute that tells the screen reader it is a mandatory field. Through the ARIA attribute, persons relying on screen readers will access and hear the forms.

Incompatibility with Mobile Devices

In a survey, 91% of people living with disabilities said that they used a smartphone or a tablet on a daily basis. Often, online job portals are not optimized for mobile access, and certain content becomes unreadable, and some features disappear. 

Tip: If your website is inaccessible with phones, it may be unresponsive, necessitating the implementation of a responsive design.

Non-Text Content

Videos are a common part of job portals as they offer unique ways to relay information about the company and available roles to persons with hearing and visual impairments or dyslexia.  

Tip: Add transcripts to make it easy for screen readers to access your content, and for deaf people, add captions.

How to Provide Accessible Job Applications

Job portals are the first impression between potential employees and an organization, and an inaccessible portal will send a signal that your organization does not value diversity or inclusivity, which may limit candidates from applying.  

With best practices such as keyboard navigation, color contrast, accessible form fields, compatibility with mobile devices, and non-text content, you can make your job applications accessible, enhancing your company's reputation as an excellent working space and attracting a wider pool. This will result in a diverse workforce, proven to boost business performance.

Don’t forget to continue monitoring web accessibility as technology and accessibility requirements evolve. 

David Gevorkian is the CEO and Founder of Be Accessible. David started Be Accessible because of his passion for website accessibility and ADA compliance. He spent much of his career working for financial institutions creating websites and mobile applications. He earned his Master’s in Business Administration from Salve Regina University in Rhode Island. David is an advocate for creating web interfaces usable by all people. He enjoys recording music and playing soccer with friends.

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