"Some edit fields...do not permit editing with [speech-to-text programs] so...you could end up with a poorly edited application. This would result in the appearance of being unable to write or spell well."
— A PEAT Survey Participant
If you're like most employers, your top recruiting priority is to get great people into the talent pipeline—and more importantly, to keep them there. Unfortunately, a job applicant's first impression of a company is sometimes a long, complicated online job application that may or may not be accessible.
According to PEAT's national survey, 46% of respondents rated their last experience applying for a job online as "difficult to impossible." Of those, 9% were unable to complete the application, and 24% required technical assistance. But that assistance is not always effective, with 58% being unable to complete a job application even with employer-provided technical assistance.
Is your online job application accessible? Here are some common accessibility issues related to job application technologies, along with tips for ensuring their accessibility. Below, we have also included the most common issues we learned in our survey. More issues are identified in the featured resources section.
According to PEAT's national survey, 46% of respondents rated their last experience applying for a job online as "difficult to impossible." Of those, 9% were unable to complete the application, and 24% required technical assistance.
Online job application software can be quite complex, consisting of many layers of screens and sections that can be difficult for some users to navigate—particularly users with visual impairments or with cognitive disabilities. Lack of consistency from one screen to another makes navigation difficult as well. And when systems "timeout," users frequently lose their data and need to begin again—or drop out entirely. Such issues don't just challenge people with disabilities; they are common complaints of users in general and serve to remind us about the virtues of usability and user experience best practices. The bottom line? Keep it simple, for all users.
For example, CareerBuilder’s resume upload feature is broken into steps that the user can navigate between. The number of fields required for each step are limited, and the user is presented with a confirmation message when a resume has been successfully uploaded.
Most online job applications contain a variety of "form fields," such as checkboxes, data fields, radio or option buttons, and other places for applicants to enter data or make selections. But if these form fields aren't explicitly labeled, they are often inaccessible to individuals who use certain types of assistive technology (AT), such as screen readers.
People who use some types of assistive technology devices, such as screen readers, screen magnifiers, and voice recognition, utilize keyboard commands to navigate an application or website instead of a mouse. Unfortunately, some online job applications are not keyboard accessible or compatible with these tools.
For example, The tab and reading order on the indeed.com search results page follows the visual flow of the page layout. The green numbered circles indicate the order and direction of tabbing through the page using the keyboard.
When a person using a screen reader encounters an image in an online job application, they may or may not know what it is (or if it's there at all) if it is not tagged properly with meaningful alternative text. As a result, users with certain visual impairments may miss out on key components of your online application.
For example, the image below contains information that is not provided in the first text alternative. The second version shows a more complete text description and indicates where the reader can find additional data.
While many people with disabilities own (and prefer to use) mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, online job applications are not always optimized for mobile access. In fact, PEAT's national survey of people with disabilities found that while 56% have searched for jobs via a mobile device, only 28% applied for a job this way—likely because of display variations and because it is difficult to complete form fields and upload resumes via a mobile device.
Optimizing job applications for mobile is crucial, because today, mobile devices are used to access half of all Internet traffic, and the number of mobile-only users (11.3%) now exceeds the number of desktop-only users. Experts predict that by 2020, mobile devices will be the primary means that people use to access the internet globally—and that the future of job applications also lies in mobile, especially because it gives applicants the ability to apply anywhere, anytime. In fact, some studies have found that as many as 77% today's job seekers already use a mobile device to search for a job.
Many people with disabilities work best from mobile devices, which often include robust accessibility features that traditional web-based systems lack. In fact, employers are increasingly adding Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies for their employees to help bridge accessibility gaps in their workplaces.
Some employers include videos within their online job applications. However, videos that are not captioned or audio-described are not accessible to people with hearing and vision impairments.
Often, online job applications lack contact information for customer/user support—leaving users with and without disabilities helpless if they are having technical difficulties with the application.
For a more in-depth look at the issues above, please see the featured resources presented on this page.