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What you need to know about digital accessibility

The Contentstack TeamAug 05, 2022

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To be digitally accessible means to create an equally accessible online environment for employees and job seekers with disabilities. No different than creating an accessible brick-and-mortar store, developing digital accessibility is essential for a business’s success.

There are many benefits of digital accessibility for employers, employees and job seekers. One notable advantage is that it creates an opportunity to embrace diversity in the workplace. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report on persons with disabilities in the workforce, 19.1% of persons with a disability were employed in 2021 compared to 17.9% in 2020. 

While the future is uncertain, it’s safe to assume the importance of digital accessibility will remain as vital as it is today. Let’s dive into what digital accessibility is and how it’s beneficial for employers and job seekers. 

What Is Digital Accessibility? 

As defined by Georgetown Law, digital accessibility “refers to the inclusive practice of removing barriers that prevent interaction with, or access to websites, digital tools, and technologies, by people with disabilities.” Digital accessibility isn’t just for the workplace; it’s for every interaction individuals with disabilities have with technology. 

Technology, digital tools or other online interactions should always be developed with accessibility in mind. Failure to create a digitally accessible environment — especially in the workplace — could lead to a range of implications, including failure to comply with the American Disability Act (ADA).  

Workplace Accessibility Laws

The American Disability Act (ADA) is “a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.” Common violations of the ADA include:

  • Denying individuals an opportunity for employment because of their disability

  • Intently refraining from promoting or providing a raise for employees with a disability

  • Failure to provide required accommodations like wheelchair ramps and handicap-accessible parking

Examples of digital accessibility violations include:

  • Poor color contrast

  • No closed-captioning option for videos and other visual aids

The Web Active Initiative - Accessibility Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) was developed to make web content and applications more accessible to people with disabilities. While WAI-ARIA isn’t a legal matter, it is an essential set of standards used by many to create accessible content.  

Digital Accessibility for Employers

When asked to develop a digitally accessible workplace, you’re being asked to create an online atmosphere that adheres to all three states of a disability: permanent, temporary and situational. 

  • Permanent disability: A permanent disability, also known as a long-term disability (LTD), is a mental or physical disability that affects an individual long-term and doesn’t go away. Permanent disabilities will affect an individual’s ability to perform daily tasks expected of other employees. Examples of permanent disabilities include spinal cord or brain injuries. 

  • Temporary disability: A temporary disability, also known as a short-term disability (STD), is a mental or physical disability that affects an individual over a shorter period, eventually going away. Examples of temporary disabilities include broken bones or a concussion;

  • Situational disability: A situational disability, also known as a situational impairment, is when an individual has difficulty using digital technology as the result of a one-off scenario. An example of a situational disability is becoming visually impaired when viewing a website because of poor page lighting. 

Creating an accessible digital workplace that embraces the above disabilities and beyond can help improve the way employers and employees consume internal communications. 

Digital Accessibility Technology for Employers 

Improving a website’s digital accessibility can be difficult without the help of software and other technological tools. To remove that stress, IT professionals, digital marketers and web developers should consider implementing one or more of the below tools to maximize their site’s accessibility. 

While the above departments are typically responsible for implementing digital accessibility, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done without them. Below are examples of digital tools and solutions created for employers and job seekers who value accessibility.

Accessibility Testing Tools

Digital accessibility testing tools help users identify a website’s usability. These testing tools will conduct automated testing and allow users to perform manual audits to pinpoint the system’s performance and whether or not it’s accessible. 

Here are a few popular accessibility testing tools and solutions:

There are many accessibility testing tools to choose from. Read reviews and ask for recommendations from trusted professionals before selecting an accessibility testing solution. 

Closed-Captioning Software

Closed-captioning software helps users with hearing impairments follow along with video and other audio-based media on a website. Businesses with audio-heavy websites should have closed-captioning options to ensure those with hearing impairments can understand their content. 

If users can’t understand a site’s content because of a lack of accessibility, a business’s credibility can be damaged. There are multiple digital closed captioning solutions that can help.

Websites with little to no audio should still consider closed-captioning solutions. Failure to do so may violate ADA laws. Per the FCC guidelines, all content aired on public television is required to have closed captions if this same content is posted online.

Websites are not legally required to have closed captioning, but this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t. Opting out of this accessibility tool can alienate staff, prospective employees and customers, causing damage to your brand’s image and your business.  

CMS and Headless CMS

A content management system (CMS) is a software application that marketing teams use to create, publish and manage content for websites, applications and other digital experiences.

CMS software can streamline workflows and ensure content satisfies regulatory standards as well. An enterprise CMS can:

  • Encourages team collaborations

  • Improves customer experience

  • Increases efficiency

  • Reduces management costs

  • Tracks marketing information 

A headless CMS manages and organizes content without a connected front-end or display layer. Compared to traditional CMS software, a headless CMS offers these benefits for providing accessibility:

  • Assign text equivalents to images, implement labeled form fields and ensure keyboard accessibility to all user interface components

  • Ensure WAI-ARIA standards are met across all platforms

  • Maintain regulatory standards, avoiding potential fines and lawsuits with an accessibility checker

  • Prompt authors for alternative content, such as alt text on images, or audio descriptions and text transcripts for video

  • Offer a uniform experience to all users

  • Streamline voice and visual search optimization

Review the above in further detail before choosing a CMS can help ensure you get the best system for your accessibility needs.

Color Checkers

This simple yet valuable accessibility tool enables users with visual impairments such as color blindness or low vision to customize a website’s color, contrast and lighting. 

Accessibility color contrast analyzing tools to consider include:

Keyboard Navigation Optimizations

To be considered digitally accessible, a website must be fully accessible and operable using only a keyboard. Keyboard navigation optimization tools are often recommended when developing an accessible digital experience strategy

According to the California State Universal Design Center, to be keyboard accessible, a web page must not only be keyboard operable; it must also have: 

  • A visible keyboard focus to allow users to identify the primary focus elements on a page 

  • Appropriate tab order so users can navigate the page

  • No keyboard traps that prevent users from accessing parts of the page

Individuals with motor skill impairments often rely on this adaptive technology to help them perform their duties. This is why keyboard accessibility is essential to creating a digitally accessible workplace.

Digital Experience Design Software

While the above software helps with accessibility, it takes digital experience design software to create the ultimate user experience. 

The main focus of digital experience design is to improve interactions with all website users, including job seekers. Digital experience design can improve interactions between users and:

  • Email campaigns

  • Online advertising

  • Self-help kiosks

  • Social media posts

  • Virtual chatbots

  • Your website

A digital experience management strategy can help ensure that customers have positive interactions with your business. A digital experience platform will enable you to create, manage, deliver and optimize digital experiences across all channels in your customer’s journey. 

How Digital Accessibility Benefits Employers

It’s no secret that enabling digital accessibility embraces diversity in the workplace. However, this isn’t the only benefit for employers. 

Improving digital accessibility as a business can:

  • Attract like-minded job seekers

  • Boost employee morale

  • Build brand awareness

  • Create a positive and diverse workplace culture

  • Increase productivity 

While it may seem like a lot to check off from your to-do list, ensuring your business is accessible from all ends is vital. The software and tools mentioned above can lessen your workload and ensure that you provide quality services. 

Additional Digital Accessibility Resources for Employers

These resources offer more information about developing digital accessibility for your business:

Now that we’ve seen the benefits of digital accessibility for employers, let’s take a look at how it can positively affect those seeking employment. 

Digital Accessibility for Job Seekers

Finding a new job without limitations is a stressful process in itself, but the stress is amplified for job seekers with disabilities.   

There are ways that you, as a job seeker, can improve the digital accessibility of the website you’re accessing. Employers with basic disability etiquette will make it known on their site in a variety of ways. 

To ensure a website is accessible, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Do they include alt texts for their images?

  • Is there an option for closed captioning?

  • Do you have software to check the color contrast?

  • Can you access every tab on the page from your keyboard? If so, do the tabs appear to be in order?

These are also signs a website isn’t accessible:

  • Missing and/or incorrect media captions

  • Page timeout restrictions

  • Poor screen contrast

How Digital Accessibility Benefits Employees

Employers show they’re attempting to understand and improve the user’s experience when they remove barriers and unnecessary restrictions often seen on other websites.

Inclusive companies will also focus on embracing your abilities beyond the application process and during the interview. If you notice a prospective employer only appears to be accessible on paper and not in person, then it could be a sign they’re not the right company for you.  

You may consider seeking employers that offer flexible schedules or allow you to work from home.  

Advocate for yourself and others if you feel a business isn’t accessible enough. After all, they can’t improve if they’re unaware of any accessibility issues. 

How to Address Accessibility With a Potential Employer

Addressing accessibility to an employer can be an awkward situation. Here are a few tips for discussing your disability with an employer:

  • Decide if you want to have the conversation. You are not legally required to disclose a disability to an employer. However, they can’t provide optimal accessibility if they’re unaware of what alterations to make.

  • Create a rough draft of what to say before you talk to them.

  • Review their accessibility policy for areas that need improvement.

Additional Digital Accessibility Resources for Job Seekers

Your rights as an employee are protected by the ADA. Review these rights to ensure you’re not being asked to disclose information you’re not required to provide. 

You can refer to the Department of Labor’s guide on disability rights to learn more about how you can make an impact on the way your workplace embraces accessibility.  

About Contentstack

The Contentstack team comprises highly skilled professionals specializing in product marketing, customer acquisition and retention, and digital marketing strategy. With extensive experience holding senior positions in notable technology companies across various sectors, they bring diverse backgrounds and deep industry knowledge to deliver impactful solutions.  

Contentstack stands out in the composable DXP and Headless CMS markets with an impressive track record of 87 G2 user awards, 6 analyst recognitions, and 3 industry accolades, showcasing its robust market presence and user satisfaction.

Check out our case studies to see why industry-leading companies trust Contentstack.

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