How Accessible is On-line Job Seeking?
When I deliver my personal development and employment workshops to blind and partially sighted job seekers the issue of completing application forms often arises. With so many job vacancies requiring on-line completion of job application forms this is a very real issue for many people.
It’s hard enough finding suitable vacancies and knowing what to write in response to the questions but when these things are not designed accessibly it is doubly difficult, if not impossible.
I have similar experiences when looking for funding opportunities and completing the application process. I use a screen reader to access anything on-line. I am not techy but I am reasonably competent with the software I use. However, it is not unusual for what should be a fairly simple task to be overly difficult and frustrating.
I therefore put myself forward when an opportunity arose to do some user testing for Abilitynet. I was recorded undertaking some typical job seeking tasks which ranged from straight forward to impossible. I wasn’t aware they were impossible at the time so I felt frustrated being unable to fulfil the task.
After my hour of user testing I felt exhausted! I found out that the site I was testing had some substantial issues, which meant identifying a vacancy and applying was actually impossible with a screen reader. Knowing this made me feel better as it is very easy to feel inadequate at times and this can have an impact on my confidence. In some ways it is good to know the issues are actually in the design and not with you.
This may make me feel better but I am still no nearer to applying for an opportunity. Not only have I not had the opportunity, but I have wasted time trying to complete something that was never possible to complete.
Looking for work or funding is a job in itself. It takes ages even when you are not using access technology so it is really disappointing when you have been denied an equal opportunity.
I was really glad to have taken part in the user testing research even though I joked I needed a paracetamol for the headache it caused! It is a fantastic way for web developers and organisations to understand how a user with a disability accesses their site. Guidelines are good to follow but feedback from a person makes the guidelines real. I don’t think web developers set out to exclude but far too many times they do. I would recommend user testing to any organisation seeking clarity on how accessible they are to a wide audience. It makes commercial, legal and social sense and it is perfectly possible. Otherwise you are denying disabled talent the equal opportunity to deliver the outcomes you seek.