Lack of internet, web accessibility harms employment of disabled people

Inequality in access to the Internet and accessible websites creates a gap in employment rates for people with disabilities, even as the prevalence of remote work opportunities has opened doors for them.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has made the digital world more vital to everyday activities, including work, web accessibility for people with disabilities is not guaranteed in the same way as physical commercial spaces.

Workers with disabilities are 13% less likely to have Internet access at home and 11% less likely to own a computer. latest report from the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, further narrowing their employment opportunities. Meanwhile, as the unemployment rate doubled between late 2019 and late 2020, workers with disabilities became unemployed and remained unemployed at higher rates than workers without disabilities.

Workers with disabilities who had Internet access were more likely to continue working, the report found. Meanwhile, there is no relationship between Internet access and job retention among workers without disabilities.

A major barrier to Internet access for people with disabilities was cost.

According to him, poverty is the root of the problem Charles Catherine, Director of Corporate and Government Relations, National Organization on Disability. With fewer job opportunities to begin with, people with disabilities are less likely to have the disposable income to spend on Internet access.

“The digital divide is real for people with disabilities, but it can really be seen as a symptom of wider inequality,” said Catherine.

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Site Access

Amid calls from lawyers, websites and large employers are increasingly making their digital ecosystems more accessible.

But web pages are often still inaccessible, especially to those who are blind or partially blind. Inability to access recruitment websites or digital products used in the workplace can be another barrier to finding work, says Kathryn.

“Now it seems obvious that it should be accessible for architectural work, but it’s not yet obvious to the site designer that it should be accessible as well,” said Catherine.

By 2021, 82% of businesses have committed to making digital content accessible to users with disabilities, according to Disability Equality Index, a corporate benchmarking tool for disability inclusion administered by Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities. However, only 59% of participating companies had a requirement to ensure that these products are accessible and usable by people with disabilities.

Making the Internet and the workplace more accessible can be simple, says Jason Taylor, chief innovation officer at UsableNet, which works with companies to make their products more accessible.

Websites and applications should be navigable without a mouse and have ways to communicate interactive page changes, for example to make them more accessible to the blind. Adding captions to videos can also make instructional videos accessible to the hearing impaired.

ADA gaps

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that “public accommodations and commercial facilities” be designed to be accessible. When the ADA went into effect in 1990, it generally meant things like adding ramps to commercial buildings. But in the digital age, where most job applications are submitted online, an inaccessible web page can easily prevent a disabled person from applying for a job for which they are qualified.

“The world of employment today has changed from 30 years ago,” Taylor said.

That’s been especially true in the wake of the pandemic, when many businesses have gone virtual, maintaining social distancing to prevent the spread of disease.

At the start of the pandemic, a wave of lawsuits were filed under Title III of the ADA by people who claimed they could not access websites to purchase goods or services, said: Shira Blankby an attorney at Epstein Becker & Green PC on behalf of the employer.

At a time when personal commerce is limited, it is even more important for people with disabilities to be able to use websites to get the products and services they need than to have access to brick-and-mortar facilities, lawsuits. supposed The law isn’t really settled in this area, Blank said.

The Ministry of Justice published in March guidance on website accessibilityy, affirming the Biden administration’s position that Title III of the ADA applies to websites. The DOJ and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also issued another guidance last month that requires employers to screen AI tools for disability bias and must have plans to provide reasonable accommodations.

That guidance, as well as the ODEP report, highlight the administration’s disability rights priorities, Blank said.

“I think it just shows that these federal agencies are coming together to create an environment where they’re trying to protect disability rights a little bit more,” he said.

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