With the increasing use of online platforms for hiring, employers must bear in mind the accessibility and accommodation requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and, if a federal contractor, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Pursuant to guidance issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “[a]s an employer, you are responsible under Title I of the ADA for making facilities accessible to qualified applicants and employees with disabilities as a reasonable accommodation, unless this would cause undue hardship.” In addition, the ADA also makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a qualified applicant or employee with a disability.
Websites pose a particular problem because applicants and employees may be unable to apply on, or navigate, an employer’s website. Thus, it is vital that your website is ADA accessible. A website is generally deemed accessible if complies with the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA, although neither the EEOC nor the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has officially adopted the WCAG yet. Still, compliance with the WCAG can help prove your good faith effort to insure accessibility, and actually is a topic of consideration during an OFCCP Section 503 focused review of a federal contractor.
The following is a brief summary of some accessibility tips set forth in the WCAG:
WCAG Accessibility Summary
|Ø Provide text alternatives for non-text content
Ø Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia
Ø Create content that can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies without losing meaning
Ø Make it easier for users to see and hear content
Ø Make all functionality available from a keyboard
Ø Give users enough time to read and use content
|Ø Do not use content that causes seizures or physical reactions
Ø Help users navigate and find content
Ø Make it easier to use inputs other than keyboards
Ø Make text readable and understandable
Ø Make content appear and operate in predictable ways
Ø Help users avoid and correct mistakes
Ø Maximize compatibility with current and future tools
Naturally, in addition to websites, employers must ensure that all other aspects of their work environment are accessible to applicants and employees with disabilities. The EEOC has provided comprehensive guidance for employers in this regard.
Lastly, if your business is a place of public accommodation (e.g., restaurant, retail store, bank, etc.) that is open to the public, you have additional obligations to provide accessibility to visitors under Title III of the ADA.
Website accessibility has been a huge source of litigation in recent years. Before you fall victim, make sure that your website and workplace are accessible and that you have in place the necessary process to address requests for accommodations.