Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Need for accessible recruitment websites - for all

This time last year I was involved in an industry group setting some guidelines for recruitment websites. It was quite an exciting project with organisations such as McKinsey & Company and Macromedia advising the group.

I would love a US reader (& I know that is most of you) to give me a perspective of the US perspective, but from a European, and especially UK perspective it is clear that many firms are failing in this area.

Why should you be worried about disability access? I think that there are two main issues:

1) Disabled people make up a significant part of the workforce, or at least working age. There are 6.9 million in the UK, about 386 million worldwide. Missing out on these people is foregoing a large number of highly talented individuals. You can't be serious that 'we want the best people' unless your market is as broad as possible.

2) In many countries, a company relying on web-only applications with an inaccessible website and system is breaking the law.

There is a great website which discusses this more than I ever could called barrierfree-recruitment.com I would recommend reading it, sending it to all your colleagues and your IT department with a 'do we comply?' message. Your IT department can download Macromedia's excellent white paper.

What prompted me to put this on? Well it was Nestlé's statement on their recruitment website that:

please note you will not be able to access this system if you are using a MAC or any other kind of Internet Browser software apart from Microsoft Internet Explorer (eg. Mozilla or Firefox).


Call me cynical but I would imagine a company as large as Nestlé could afford to get their site tested (and hence usable) by most of the main browsers. This site gets about 25% of users using Firefox, but is probably unusual. Even so given designing to web standards costs little and makes absolute business sense. On the subject they could also have tested to ensure that when you progress you don't get a 'SAP Internal Server Error' message. At the moment Nestlé is a great example of 'how not to do it'.

Being able to read using a screen-reader such as Window-Eyes or JAWS should be a high priority. Given that Apple has announced system level screen-reading support into it's next version of the operating system I predict Apple will pick up a large proportion of the disabled community quite quickly. Screen readers are expensive.

Finally it is worth having a think about how people will use your site. Will smartphones be a good channel, or even gaming consoles. You should be asking your designers to think about viewers other than standard computers.

Update:

US sites worth reviewing include business-disability.com; hirepotential.com; jobaccess.org; justonebreak.com. A great online tool to give you an idea of how well your website performs is available at the Bobby site from Watchfire.