Web accessibility is a vital component of workplace equity and one frequently neglected in the conversation following the pandemic workforce shift. Now, employers are seeking remote solutions to their workplace needs, but accessibility often goes unaddressed.
Employees with disabilities or those in underserved and rural areas experience specific challenges in balancing remote work. HR staff can support Web accessibility for greater equity, making the new normal work for everyone.
Creating accessibility options requires first understanding the definition of Web accessibility, as well as how it can be used to support disadvantaged employees. Here, we take a look at these topics to offer HR workers the tools to support their work environments—even the digital ones.
What Is Web Accessibility?
To plan for Web accessibility for remote workers in every situation, you must first understand what it means. Web accessibility can be defined as the practice of ensuring equal access to online content for all—those with physical, situational, or socioeconomic disabilities included.
Web accessibility, while not clearly defined in technical standards, is legally required by definition as a public space. This was decided in a precedent set by Robles vs. Domino’s Pizza, LLC, in 2017, a case that determined that as a website, Domino’s had to provide accessibility features guaranteed in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Stemming from the ADA are a slew of protections that any HR worker should be familiar with. These employment laws require that companies make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, and virtual spaces have been proven to be no different. In the pandemic-quickened shift to remote work, these laws maintain their importance and should be considered by HR forces in transition policy.
Web accessibility means applying empathy and understanding to employee problems for digital solutions. Any HR team can begin to implement Web accessibility techniques with the right support strategy.
How HR Can Support Disadvantaged Employees
Web accessibility issues can affect anyone. With an estimated 42 million Americans without access to broadband Internet, when it comes to remote work, disadvantaged employees are more common than HR workers might think. This illustrates the necessity of providing accessibility solutions that can work for any situation.
To better support these employees, HR can integrate the following support options:
Find and support companies that have signed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Keep Americans Connected Pledge. In response to the difficulties of COVID-19, the FCC announced an initiative to keep Americans connected through companies’ commitments to provide Internet and mobile access despite financial hardships. Additionally, this initiative is prompting the spread of technical accessibility in rural and underserved areas. More than 800 companies have already signed this pledge.
HR teams can partner with these pledge companies, as well as commit to similar accessibility policies, to better support employees and users.
Ensure software is compatible with screen readers. Many individuals with visual impairments have difficulty managing digital content without the use of a screen reader. By ensuring your company software and websites are accessible via screen readers, you can support anyone who may need to use such technology to any degree.
Test all of your digital content to ensure compatibility with screen readers. This helps your business comply with ADA regulations while fostering an empathetic work environment.
Create text captions and transcripts for all video and image content. The use of video and image content can be desirable for some. For others, however, the broadband requirements and/or visual or auditory difficulties can prevent that content from having the reach it needs. That’s why for all of your video and image content, transcripts and text captions should be created that are compatible with screen readers and other accessibility support tools.
Enable accessibility options for smartphones and mobile applications. In many areas lacking broadband Internet access, Americans rely on smartphone data to connect to the Web. With this in mind, HR forces should develop accessibility options for smartphones and mobile applications that have these users in mind.
This means low data demands, as well as screen reader and speech-recognition technology that can be utilized on a smartphone.
Format all content for Web accessibility. Building Web accessibility into all your workplace’s digital content should not require employees to disclose a disability. You can implement accessibility into content through the use of high-contrast traditional color schemes, adjustable font sizes, screen reader integration, speech-recognition compatibilities, and so much more.
While businesses may not be able to anticipate all the hurdles potential users and employees will need to cross to equitably use technology, they can remove as many barriers as possible by keeping Web accessibility in mind from the start.
These strategies help businesses avoid ADA accessibility claims and costly legal issues while providing the kind of work environment anyone would be happy to participate in. As COVID-19 reshapes the workforce and creates new stressors—especially for disadvantaged employees—workers need empathetic support strategies. Create an open and empathetic environment to set your business and employees up for success, no matter where the work takes place.
Building a Remote Workplace That Works for Everyone
Any HR office can support a Web-accessible approach to remote working for the pandemic economy. This ensures barriers are not placed in front of disadvantaged employees that unfairly keep them from doing the work they are capable of.
By understanding that Web accessibility means a working environment that is both inclusive and supportive, your HR team can begin to implement policies that foster empathy and respect. As the challenges of COVID-19 affect us all, sweeping accessibility policies help ensure success for customers and employees alike.
A remote workplace that works for everyone brings accessibility in the form of user-conscious, industry-supported tools that provide text or audio solutions for any type of worker and user. Support Web accessibility in your post-COVID-19 policies to better create such an environment.
Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college, he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics, but business and digital marketing topics are his favorite. When he isn’t writing, you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.