Are You Putting Up Employment Barriers?

 In Articles, PDF Accessibility

Are you reaching as many qualified people as possible for vacant positions? If your online employment portal and your applications aren’t accessible for people with disabilities, chances are you are missing out on some talented people, and possibly risking potential lawsuits.

How the Hill Becomes Steeper

LaptopThe job application process isn’t easy for anyone. But imagine if you have trouble actually “seeing” the application because of color contrast issues.  What do you do if the digital documents aren’t tagged properly and your assistive technology can’t logically navigate the content? And just think, you’re almost done with the application and then you’re “timed out” after a certain period of time because a cognitive disability forces you to take a little longer to complete the application. Finding a job becomes an even steeper hill to climb.

Employment and Hiring Are Not the Same

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires accommodation not only in employment, but in the hiring process as well, often the forgotten component. To be certain, technological advancements have removed some obstacles for people with disabilities.  But these advancements must continue to keep up with the ever increasing technological changes made on the online application side so everyone has equal opportunity to get the door open to the employer’s office.

Large Employers Are Taking the Lead

Large employers, including the federal government are beginning to address the application process. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has already implemented rules designed to address the need for contractors to be accessible not just in employment, but in hiring as well.  Per the ADA and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistant Act (VEVRAA), federal contractors are required to make online applications for employment accessible to those applicants who are qualified and have disabilities or are disabled veterans.

The Department of Labor Has Important Resources

The Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) works to increase the hiring, job success, and career advancement of people with disabilities through the development, adoption, and promotion of accessible technology and universal design. Acting in conjunction with the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT), which is funded ODEP and managed by the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA), PEAT is a multi-faceted initiative to foster collaboration action around accessible technology in the workplace. PEAT is steered by a consortium of policy and technology leaders to help employers, IT companies, and others understand why it pays to build and buy accessible technology, and how to do so.  Much of what PEAT does is to focus on the recruiting process, providing employers with online resources that helps employers and HR professionals make their e-recruiting technologies accessible to all job seekers, including those with disabilities.

What Your Organization Can Do

There are steps you can take to put your applications on the pathway to accessibility:

  • Evaluate form accessibility and usability
  • Test with a Screen Reader
  • Evaluate features on your site that create potential barriers for people with various disabilities
    • Visual
    • Hearing
    • Physical
    • Cognitive or Neurological
  • Conduct User Experience Testing

CommonLook’s PDF Validator tool is our free PDF accessibility checker and provides you with a certification report for each tested document. You can then decide how you want to proceed if your documents are found to have inaccessible components. For more information, you can contact us at

Why deprive your business of the most talented people available for your open positions? The more accessible your online hiring process is, the likelihood is that more people will see and apply for your positions. It’s a win-win situation.