Inclusive hiring policies should fundamentally be about helping all job seekers and employers find ways to mutually meet each other’s needs. A true commitment to inclusion should extend internally to making sure that facilities, policies and procedures are as accessible as possible.
Inclusion should be extended externally as well — especially to your company’s website.
Since the web is central to the ways companies seek out employees and project their images to the world, offering poor accessibility experiences online doesn’t simply make it difficult to recruit the untapped talent pool of people with disabilities — it projects the image that your company is not inclusive of everyone.
Here’s what you should know about the importance of an inclusive website experience — and its potential impact on hiring.
Your online presence is the key to accessible hiring
Concerns about online inclusivity aren’t new. The web’s architects focused on it for decades.
The first set of web accessibility guidelines was published in 1999 by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The document laid out a vision of a global network that could be accessed by everyone, regardless of disabilities, age-related impairments or limited access to technology. The initial guidelines suggested, for example, that web designers ensure that auditory content would always be accessible to the deaf and hearing-impaired, that visual images would be legible to people with vision loss, and that pages were always designed in ways that wouldn’t cause seizures.
In the following decades, the standards that define accessibility on the internet have grown into a lengthy set of accommodations known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). But full adoption of these standards has been regrettably slow. For example, a 2022 study of the top 1 million homepages found an average of more than 50 accessibility errors per page.
Indeed’s approach to accessibility
Indeed is committed to helping individuals with disabilities find employment. To do so, in December 2020, the company made a public pledge to implement the highest accessibility standards on its website. “I felt like I had an opportunity to make a real impact,” says Derek Bove, accessibility product manager at Indeed.
Bove previously worked at an assistive technology software company where customers with disabilities would often share stories about their difficulties finding work. “Indeed’s core mission is to help people get jobs, and I know how important finding and maintaining a job is for people with disabilities,” he says. “Making our products accessible is directly aligned with that mission, and it allows us to further state that we help all people get jobs.”
Ensuring that Indeed’s website complies with the latest accessibility guidelines was a major undertaking requiring coordination and collaboration among numerous departments. During the initiative’s first 12 months, the team made thousands of accessibility improvements across Indeed’s products.
The work has not been purely technical. Bove has welcomed feedback from people with disabilities who have used the product so that “we’re not just checking the box, but ensuring it’s actually usable for the community,” he says.
Where to start: Your website
For larger businesses with complex websites, making changes to bring their products in line with accessibility guidelines can be a daunting — and potentially expensive — prospect. Accessible web design is most effective when it’s incorporated at the start of development, when the marginal cost is small and compensated by increased reach. Mature sites can be expensive to retrofit, so it’s better to consider accessibility proactively, even if it’s not a formal requirement.
But for larger organizations, incentives to improve accessibility are obvious and growing. Web accessibility in Canada is addressed in the Standard on Web Accessibility, and the Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977 has been interpreted as requiring websites to ensure that organizations offer accessible content to those with disabilities. Following the passing of the Accessible Canada Act, legislators continue to expand the reach of accessibility requirements at all levels of government.
Companies committing to accommodate more users must understand that this work is never done. “I would often be asked: ‘What would it take for us to become 100% accessible?’” Bove says. “I would pause and explain that the second you tweak your site in any way, you’re no longer at 100%. No product will be accessible indefinitely.”
Connecting to job seekers
Companies committed to accessibility should also rethink job duties and requirements based on what they truly need from a role. Some individuals aren’t able to work a 40-hour week, but that doesn't mean they can’t bring a lot of value. So you might want to consider updating job descriptions. Do you really need someone to be able to lift 25 pounds — or anything more than their pen?
“When we rethink our own needs and ask others about theirs, we can come to a middle ground,” says Donna Bungard, senior marketing accessibility program manager at Indeed.
“At every stage, organizations should work to remove ‘otherness,’” Bungard adds. “Include the voice and image of employees with a disability in your website, media, and any other way your organization represents itself — and not simply because of the person’s disability but because they are a talented employee who happens to be disabled. Hiring is always about focusing on the abilities of the applicants. This doesn’t change because of disability. And if disability is normalized in your company culture, it will show.”
Companies can’t simply enact an accessibility policy and leave it unchanged any more than they can simply stop updating their websites — it requires constant refinement. “Luckily many users with disabilities understand that accessibility is a process rather than a destination,” Bove says. “The community understands that continuous improvement based on their feedback is our ultimate goal.”