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Most Fortune 100 Careers Sites Aren't Accessible to People with Disabilities

A person is typing on a purple keyboard.

​Eighty-nine companies in the Fortune 100 fail to meet at least one of six basic standards to make careers websites accessible, according to a survey by Phenom People, a talent experience management company.

A website is considered accessible when it meets the standards of the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. Although the U.S. Department of Justice has not adopted any Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standard for accessible websites, WCAG 2.0 has been applied by many courts as the ADA standard.

Six Basic Criteria

Examining six basic WCAG criteria, the researchers at Phenom People discovered that:

  • 65 companies didn't meet color contrast standards (WCAG 1.4.3).
  • 55 failed to satisfy table standards (WCAG 1.3.1).
  • 39 didn't fulfill alternative text standards (WCAG 1.1.1).
  • 33 didn't meet resize text standards (WCAG 1.4.4).
  • 27 failed to meet focus indicator standards (WCAG 2.4.7).
  • Four didn't satisfy keyboard navigation standards (WCAG 2.1.1).

"Failing to meet critical accessibility standards creates a troubling problem: Individuals with disabilities cannot navigate, find jobs or apply on careers sites," stated Ben Eubanks, principal analyst at Lighthouse Research & Advisory in Huntsville, Ala. "Research shows there is a higher rate of unemployment among them than the general population. This means employers are missing out on otherwise qualified talent with critically low levels of employment."

The intent of the color contrast standard is to provide enough contrast between text and its background so that it can be read by people with moderately low vision who do not use contrast-enhancing technology.

Web tables should have proper HTML markup so that people using screen readers can navigate through data tables one cell at a time and hear the column and row headers spoken to them through their screen readers, noted WebAIM, a nonprofit at Utah State University in Logan, Utah, that provides Web accessibility solutions. Many people with vision impairments rely on screen readers to navigate websites.

Websites that use images without alternative text are inaccessible to individuals with vision impairments who use screen readers to navigate websites.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Accommodating Employees' Disabilities]

Sites that don't meet resize text standards have words that become blurry when people with moderately low vision try to enlarge the text to read it, noted Jonathan Dale, vice president of product marketing for Phenom People in Ambler, Pa.

Focus indicator standards help people who rely on a keyboard rather than a mouse to navigate a webpage. Included in this group may be people who lack fine motor skills, noted Dan Eggimann, senior product manager at Phenom People in Philadelphia.

People with no vision may rely on a keyboard as well. The entire website should be navigable through a keyboard interface, as well as through use of a mouse.

Businesses aren't maintaining inaccessible websites out of malice, Eggimann stated, but rather because they're just not thinking about it.

Dale said it's easier to design an accessible website from scratch than to overhaul an existing website. Ongoing education and awareness are needed, he added. In the rush to create new images for a website, it's easy to forget about accessible features, he cautioned.

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Customer's Website Case

The extent to which the ADA requires careers sites to be accessible has not been litigated much, according to Scott Topolski, an attorney with Cole Schotz in Boca Raton, Fla. Instead, there has been an "explosion" in litigation around whether businesses that provide services to customers must make their websites accessible, he stated.

Domino's Pizza recently urged the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court decision that the company might be liable to customers under the ADA for an inaccessible website. The Supreme Court on Oct. 7 declined to review the case, leaving the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision intact and sending the case back to the trial court.

The 9th Circuit had reversed a district court decision that applying the ADA to Domino's website and app violated the company's due process rights because the U.S. Department of Justice had failed to provide guidance on the matter.

The appeals court noted that requiring Domino's to meet WCAG 2.0 standards might be a remedy if the company failed to comply with the ADA's language requiring that no person with a disability be denied services due to the absence of auxiliary aids. The Department of Justice has clarified that this statutory language requires effective communication between the business that is open to the public and customer. Moreover, the department has repeatedly affirmed that the law applies to the websites of private businesses open to the public—so-called public accommodations.

Topolski said some courts have ruled that the ADA does not apply to public accommodations when businesses don't have any brick-and-mortar stores but instead exist only online. However, this argument wouldn't apply to Domino's since it has physical locations.

In a statement, Domino's said it already has developed an accessible website and app. "Although Domino's is disappointed that the Supreme Court will not review this case, we look forward to presenting our case at the trial court," it stated. "We also remain steadfast in our belief in the need for federal standards for everyone to follow in making their websites and mobile apps accessible."

The ADA website cases involving public accommodations have been steadily increasing, Topolski said. He predicted that the Supreme Court declining to hear the Domino's case will result in even more lawsuits.

[Visit SHRM's resource page on the Americans with Disabilities Act.]


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